North Korea diplomat defected from Vladivostok, report says

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A North Korean diplomat and trade representative fled a consulate in Vladivostok.

The diplomat, who remains unidentified, defected in July with his wife and children to South Korea through a third country, Yonhap reported.

A source in Russia who spoke to the South Korean news agency on the condition of anonymity said the “secretary-level” official also took substantial amounts of cash that belongs to Pyongyang.

North Korea’s embassies abroad are often tasked with commercial enterprises, often illegal, in order to earn foreign currency for the regime.

In Russia, North Korean trade representatives are also responsible for acquiring necessary goods.

The defection took place in early July before the high-profile defection of Thae Yong Ho in August, and the defection of another Russia-based trade representative, Kim Chol Song, from St. Petersburg.

Vladivostok is a major shipping hub proximal to the North Korea border.

On Sept. 2-3, the city is to host the second Eastern Economic Forum, a gathering estimated to bring more than 2,500 Chinese, Japanese and South Korean government officials and businesspeople, Yonhap reported.

North Korea, however, will not be sending any delegates, despite Pyongyang’s ties with Moscow and North Korea’s strategic location in the region.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the forum, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning a summit with Putin, according to the report.

The 2015 Eastern Economic Forum resulted in $28 billion worth of agreements being signed, according to Sputnik News.

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