Despite growing comfortable with his posting to North Koreas embassy in suburban London, Thae chose to leave that life behind and defect with his wife and children to South Korea, in what could be one of the highest-profile defections in years, South Korean authorities said. The South Korean news media have been abuzz this week with speculation over a possible defection by Thae after the JoongAng Daily newspaper reported Tuesday that a high-ranking North Korean diplomat working in the United Kingdom had sought asylum in another country. An official from South Koreas Ministry of Unification, its body for relations with North Korea, said by phone Wednesday that Thae had arrived in South Korea and is in state custody with his wife and children. The official declined to specify the date of Thaes arrival and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing ministry rules. The news of Thaes arrival in South Korea comes one day after the South Korean government announced that 13 North Korean restaurant workers who defected in April from China as a group had been released from state custody after lengthy rounds of questioning. They had been working at one of the many restaurants North Korea operates abroad, mostly in Asia, where young waitresses in traditional attire serve traditional North Korean food and drinks, while providing musical entertainment. Shortly before the groups defection, the South Korean government had called on its citizens traveling abroad to avoid North Korean restaurants, saying the money they spent there went to funding North Koreas weapons programs. Seoul then claimed that the restaurant workers had defected because they were under pressure to send more money back to North Korea, even as business was slumping with fewer South Korean customers. try thisThe restaurants are a source of sorely needed foreign currency for the North Korean state, which is cut off from most kinds of international commerce by an increasingly tight set of economic sanctions.
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