North Korea alleges that the daughter of a diplomat defector who went missing asked to return home, according to a Wednesday statement from the Italian Foreign Ministry.
The girl, who was staying with her father at his post in Rome, asked to return to her grandparents in North Korea, according to a statement from the country, the Italian ministry said, Reuters reported. “The Farnesina (Foreign Ministry) does not have any further information about this affair,” the ministry said Wednesday.
The announcement comes after North Korean diplomat Jo Song Gil and his wife were reported missing in November. The pair had applied for asylum in a Western country, according to a South Korean newspaper, Reuters reported. Jo had been serving as a diplomat in Italy since 2015.
Jo was not able to bring his daughter with him, a former deputy North Korean ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong Ho, said Tuesday, according to Reuters. Thae defected to South Korea in 2016. After Jo and his wife disappeared, their daughter was immediately returned to North Korea, according to Thae’s North Korean contacts.
North Korea informed the Italian Foreign Ministry on Dec. 5 that Jo and his wife departed from the embassy in Rome on Nov. 10, according to a statement from Italian Foreign Ministry undersecretary Manlio Di Stefano. Their daughter returned to North Korea on Nov. 14, North Korean officials said, according to Reuters.
“She now risks being tortured by one of the worst regimes in the world,” Di Stefano said, alleging that Italy should have protected the young girl, according to Reuters.
“The level of punishment that the children of a North Korean diplomat who defected would face is completely different depending on whether the parent went to South Korea or a Western country,” Thae said.
Approximately 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since 1953, according to figures from South Korea’s government.
U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam to discuss denuclearization, according to Politico. The president may offer a deal to officially end the Korean War in exchange for the denuclearization of North Korea. An end to the war is “something wants more than almost anything else,” The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. has been involved in the Korean War since 1950.
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