Thae Yong-ho’s wife is related to comrade of Kim Il Sung

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Thae Yong-ho’s wife is related to comrade of Kim Il Sung

O Hye-son, the 50-year-old wife of Thae Yong-ho, the most senior diplomat ever to defect to South Korea, is related to O Paek-ryong, a first generation guerrilla comrade of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported to lawmakers of the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly on Monday.

O Paek-ryong died in 1984 at the age of 70 and is the father of O Kum-chol, vice chief of the North Korean Army’s General Staff.

Thae Yong-ho, 55, is an elite diplomat who recently defected from his post at North Korea’s mission in London to South Korea with his wife and children.

According to lawmakers of the Intelligence Committee, NIS officials said that media reports on Thae being the son of Thae Byong-ryol are wrong.Thae Byong-ryol was also a first-generation guerrilla comrade, having fought against the Japanese Imperial Army in the 1930s alongside Kim Il Sung.

NIS officials said, “Thae Yong-ho has only two sons who he defected with. Some media reports that Thae’s daughter was left behind in North Korea are wrong.”

The NIS also said that Thae did not take any money with him when defecting. Some media had reported that Thae ran away with a large sum of secret funds, which were in North Korean mission in London and which belonged to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

NIS officials reported to the Intelligence Committee that Kim Jong-un recently issued an order summoning all children of diplomats aged 25 and over to the home country. Thae’s eldest son is 26 years old.

“It’s true that Kim had issued such orders,” said a NIS official, “but it is not the decisive reason for Thae’s defection.”

The official said that because of international economic sanctions against North Korea, diplomats have been under pressure to earn hard currency and send them back to Pyongyang.

“Thae, too, was burdened with the duty of sending money back to Pyongyang,” said the official. The official added that Thae made a decision to defect as he worried that he might be reprimanded for being unable to cope well with international sanctions on North Korea.

BY E CHOONG-HYEONG, LEE JI-SANG [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]

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