The South Korean government has just revealed that a top official from the North Korean government defected to South Korea last year. Defections from high-ranking government officials in North Korea are pretty rare.
According to CBS News, the senior official was in the General Reconnaissance Bureau, an agency that commits espionage and other secret missions, and he enjoyed the rank of colonel before his defection. This announcement comes on the heels of news that 13 North Koreans working in a restaurant in Ningbo, China defected as well.
Unsurprisingly, defections like these are super political, and people are questioning why the South Korean government decided to reveal them:
Defections are a bitter source of contention between the rival Koreas, and Seoul doesn’t always make the high-profile cases public. Liberal lawmakers and media outlets have linked the recent defection announcements to what they say is an attempt by the conservative government of South Korean President Park Geun-hye to muster anti-Pyongyang votes ahead of this week’s parliamentary elections. The government denied this.
CNN reports that senior officials don’t usually defect, but that another high level defector said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “was taking an increasingly brutal approach to the elite, executing them when they fell out of favor.” If true, that could be a possible explanation for what’s going on.