North Korean ambassador to Italy goes into hiding after asking for asylum

The ambassador disappeared after seeking asylum in an unnamed western country

The North Korean ambassador to Italy has gone into hiding
The North Korean ambassador to Italy has gone into hiding

North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy has disappeared after reportedly seeking asylum.

Jo Song-gil, the North Korean top diplomat in Rome, applied for asylum in an unidentified Western country with his family, South Korean MP JoongAng Ilbo confirmed on Thursday.

JoongAng, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources in Seoul, said Jo had sought asylum early in December.

He is now in hiding, with the MP having said that the authorities in Italy were “agonising” over what to do, and that he was being protected “in a safe place”.

The North Korean embassy in Italy also serves as North Korea’s diplomatic representation for Malta. However, Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela told MaltaToday that the name of the North Korean ambassador who is accredited to Malta does not match with that of the person who is being reported as having asked for asylum and gone into hiding, Jo Song-gil.

The ambassador in Rome listed as being accredited to Malta is named as Kim Chun Guk.

“The reason for this could either be because the ambassador was changed without Malta having been informed, or because the person in question [Jo Song-gil] has not yet been accredited to our country,” Abela said.

Abela said that he is unaware of any request for asylum by the North Korean official to the competent authorities in Malta.

Italian news service Ansa said today that Italy had not received an asylum request from Jo.

Jo, 48, had been acting ambassador to Italy since October 2017, after then ambassador Mun Jong Nam hd been expelled in protest after North Korea carrier out a nuclear test a month prior, violating United Nations resolutions.

The last senior North Korean diplomat to defect was Thae Yong-ho, who had in 2016 abandoned his deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom post.