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8 NK officials defect, 7 others caught at border: report


An Air Koryo carrier. Yonhap
An Air Koryo carrier. Yonhap

Eight North Korean government officials appear to have defected to China earlier this month, while another seven were caught at the border, a US radio station reported Thursday. 

North Korean authorities carried out an emergency operation Jan. 2 to capture the defectors, flying a team to Samjiyon Airport near the Chinese border to track them down. The use of an airplane, which is rare in defector chases, indicates the severity of the case, the report said. 

Eight of the 15 officials had crossed the border by the time security agents arrived.

Citing an anonymous source, the media outlet reported that among the group, there was a typist from the Central Party who was handling key documents for the state, raising the possibility that he or she may have been carrying secret documents. There was also an official who worked with the state’s telecommunication system.  

The group, mostly senior officials, had left Pyongyang around the beginning of the year and arrived in a village in Kimhyongjik county, Ryanggang Province, situated on the border with China.

North Korea has further tightened inspections and policing along the border since last year, according to reports.

Defections have since dropped significantly. The number of North Koreans defecting to the South hit its lowest in nearly two decades last year, according to the Unification Ministry, with about 1,047 North Koreans arriving here, down from 1,137 in 2018.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)

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