North Korea’s defecting ambassador an intelligence gold mine
North Korea’s interim ambassador to Italy has reportedly defected. If confirmed, the defection comes at a critical time in the development of South Korea-North Korea relations and may threaten their progress, as the defector has a high-ranking family background and could be a key source of intelligence for the West. Experts have suggested that his relocation to the US is more likely than South Korea, where defectors may not currently be welcomed for the complications they would bring to an already difficult process. According to anonymous informants, the defecting ambassador is the son of the late deputy head of North Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD). This department was considered the most important of the Kim Jong Il government until his death in 2011. While its importance under Kim Jong Un is not fully known, it has been named of “critical importance to state affairs” by multiple high-ranking defectors. North Korea carefully screens diplomats, an elite role in the country, for loyalty, working to prevent or at least reduce defections that prove highly embarrassing for the country as they highlight failures of political unity as well as intelligence failures for leaking the illicit business roles their diplomats regularly practice on behalf of their country. For this reason, diplomats sent to Western Europe are typically the most loyal and best connected, with family connections providing collateral against defection.