SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean state media on Saturday accused a diplomat who defected from Britain to South Korea of fleeing to escape punishment for a variety of crimes, including child rape, for which Pyongyang had sought to extradite him.
A commentary by the KCNA news agency did not identify the diplomat by name, but on Wednesday South Korea announced that Thae Yong Ho, who was deputy ambassador at North Korea’s embassy in London, had arrived in South Korea with his family.
Thae is the highest-level diplomat to defect from isolated North Korea to the rival, democratic South, according to the South Korean government.
“The fugitive was ordered in June to be summoned for embezzling a lot of state funds, selling state secrets and committing child rape,” KCNA said.
North Korea had told London about what it said were his crimes and requested that he be handed over, KCNA said.
Instead, it said, Britain tainted its image as a law-abiding country by “handing over the fugitives without passports to the South Korean puppets and neglecting its duty to protect diplomats living in its own country.”
A spokesman for Britain’s foreign office did not have immediate comment. Thae and his family are under South Korean government protection and not available for comment.
“This one clearly deserves legal punishment for crimes he has committed but he proved that he is human scum that has no basic loyalty as a human and no conscience and morality by running away to survive and abandoning the homeland and parents and siblings that raised and stood by him,” KCNA said.
North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Tony Munroe; Additional reporting by William Schomberg in London; Editing by Nick Macfie)