North Korean envoy to Italy 'missing'

North Korea's top diplomat in Italy has been missing for weeks, a South Korean lawmaker said, raising suspic...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 9:32 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 9:32 AM

North Korea's top diplomat in Italy has been missing for weeks, a South Korean lawmaker said, raising suspicions that he may have defected.

Jo Song Gil, Pyongyang's chargé d'affaires in Rome, disappeared along with his wife in early November, a spokesperson for Kim Min-ki told CNN, following a briefing the lawmaker received from South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) Thursday. Jo's term was set to expire later that month, according to the spokesperson.

Asia

Continents and regions

Defection and defectors

East Asia

Europe

International relations

International relations and national security

Italy

North Korea

Political Figures - Intl

Southern Europe

Thae Yong Ho

Unrest, conflicts and war

Kim Jong Un

North Korea nuclear development

South Korea

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

State departments and diplomatic services

Italy has been without a North Korean ambassador since Pyongyang's former envoy was expelled in 2017, following the country's sixth nuclear test. Jo joined the embassy in May 2015 as the third secretary, Kim said.

A prominent South Korean newspaper reported Thursday that Jo was seeking asylum in the West, citing anonymous South Korean government sources. A spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his office had no information about the case. The NIS did not confirm if he defected.

Italy's Foreign Ministry was not aware of an asylum request, a spokesman told CNN. Instead, the ministry was only told in late November that Jo would no longer be "in charge of business," it said.

If Jo did defect, he would be the highest-profile North Korean government official known to do so since 2016, when Thae Yong-ho, Pyongyang's former deputy envoy to the United Kingdom, abandoned his post.

Thae was posted abroad with his immediate family when he defected from North Korea's British embassy in 2016. However, most North Korean diplomats posted abroad do not travel with their families, and it's unclear if Jo and his wife had children with them in Italy.

"The children are used by Kim Jong Un as kind of hostage," Thae told CNN in 2017, shortly after his own defection. "Kim Jong Un abuses even the love between parents and children."

Thae described his life as one of a "modern slave" for the regime, and made his decision to defect after years of exposure to the Western world. He said made wanted to give his sons the opportunity lead a different life, despite the dangers he could face. He now lives in South Korea under heavy security.

Defectors say North Korea routinely punishes entire families for the crimes of an individual, especially those found guilty of anti-regime activity. Those who have left North Korea say defectors' relatives are often sent to prison camps or used by the regime as propaganda tools.

CNN spoke with Thae's sister and brother inside North Korea in 2017, both of whom disowned him and claimed no one in the family had been punished for his crime.

The pair said the interview, organized by the government, was done voluntarily.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 95310

Reported Deaths: 2874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7032159
DeSoto547759
Harrison380573
Jackson343069
Madison323386
Rankin322577
Lee265468
Jones245279
Forrest242571
Washington219772
Lafayette213739
Lauderdale2038125
Bolivar181366
Oktibbeha176350
Lamar165534
Neshoba1556104
Panola145527
Lowndes144958
Sunflower143946
Warren138450
Leflore138381
Pontotoc124916
Pike122450
Monroe120768
Scott117126
Copiah116633
Coahoma114428
Holmes109558
Marshall108516
Lincoln107553
Grenada107236
Yazoo104630
Simpson101844
Union98824
Tate96237
Leake94638
Adams92637
Wayne88821
Pearl River87053
Marion84535
Prentiss83417
Covington81322
Itawamba78721
Alcorn78611
Newton76723
Tallahatchie76421
George75913
Winston73519
Chickasaw66724
Tishomingo66738
Tippah65417
Attala65325
Walthall59525
Clay58518
Hancock57221
Clarke57045
Jasper56215
Noxubee54616
Smith52914
Calhoun50812
Tunica48213
Claiborne45916
Montgomery45820
Lawrence42912
Yalobusha42314
Perry41618
Humphreys37515
Quitman3735
Stone36512
Greene35917
Jefferson Davis33511
Webster33313
Amite32110
Carroll31412
Wilkinson30218
Kemper28815
Sharkey26513
Jefferson2449
Benton2232
Franklin1923
Choctaw1816
Issaquena1043
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 133433

Reported Deaths: 2349
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19306349
Mobile13233291
Montgomery8748177
Madison770978
Tuscaloosa7418116
Lee579261
Shelby578750
Baldwin514149
Marshall389244
Etowah340247
Calhoun340140
Morgan323926
Houston276423
Elmore259647
DeKalb237519
St. Clair226337
Walker225383
Talladega210628
Limestone203319
Cullman186818
Dallas175926
Franklin175229
Russell17322
Autauga171525
Lauderdale167333
Colbert162926
Blount158015
Escambia157725
Jackson154011
Chilton152431
Dale134644
Covington133427
Coffee12988
Pike11799
Chambers114442
Tallapoosa113885
Clarke107017
Marion95429
Butler91139
Barbour8517
Winston71812
Marengo70519
Lowndes65227
Pickens64514
Bibb63810
Randolph62713
Hale61928
Lawrence60522
Bullock59714
Geneva5864
Cherokee58315
Monroe5808
Clay5547
Washington55113
Perry5396
Conecuh53011
Wilcox53011
Crenshaw52732
Henry4835
Macon47920
Fayette4358
Sumter43219
Lamar3572
Choctaw34412
Cleburne3356
Greene30315
Coosa1673
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Columbus
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 67°
Oxford
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Starkville
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 64°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather