Jan. 3 (UPI) — North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy has “gone into hiding” for nearly two months and may have defected to a third country, according to multiple South Korean press reports.
Television network KBS and others reported Thursday Jo Song Gil and his wife have been out of the public eye since early November and the South Korean government is paying close attention to the latest developments.
In a report to a South Korean parliamentary committee, Seoul’s spy agency said Jo was due to return to North Korea after serving his term at the end of November.
Jo was confirmed to have not returned to Pyongyang and went into hiding, according to the report.
According to KBS, a South Korean diplomatic source said Jo is seeking asylum in a third country that is not South Korea.
Kim Min-ki, a member of the national assembly’s information commission, said Jo did not reach out to Seoul’s spy agency and may have opted to not defect to the South.
Jo was appointed acting ambassador to Italy in July 2017, when Italy expelled then-Ambassador Mun Jong Nam in response to North Korea weapons tests.
Jo kept a low profile in Rome and was not seen much in public, according to KBS.
Reports of the missing North Korea diplomat come at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump said he plans to meet with Kim Jong Un in the “not too distant future.”
Trump showed a letter from Kim to reporters on Wednesday, and said his administration doesn’t get enough credit for improved ties with Pyongyang.
“You’d be having a nice, big, fat war in Asia, and it wouldn’t be pleasant,” he said, referring to a scenario under a different leadership.
Thae Yong-ho, the former North Korea diplomat resettled in the South, said Kim is likely to request economic incentives for engagement.
The North Korean leader could ask for the reopening of a jointly operated factory park in return for a fourth summit in the South, the Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday.