SEOUL, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Speculation is rising in South Korea that U.S. intelligence agents may have been dispatched to Seoul to interview a senior North Korean diplomat who fled from his embassy in London, as the two sides worked in close coordination after Thae Yong Ho’s defection.
Local newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported Wednesday the CIA may have sent officers to South Korea to interrogate Thae, who had defected to Seoul in August.
According to the JoongAng, the probe could have taken place in an upscale residential district in southern Seoul in August.
The South Korean press report stated about six or seven foreign personnel dressed in black arrived in Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans at a compound protected by gray iron gates.
The group arrived at the compound in the morning then left between 4 and 5 p.m., according to the report.
While the South Korean newspaper did not identify the individuals, the report stated the compound is one of few remaining safe houses belonging to Seoul’s National Intelligence Service. The residence is equipped with a kitchen, bedrooms and a living room.
There are also living spaces in the compound for security guards, according to the JoongAng.
Thae, who was in charge of promoting North Korea to the British public, was second in seniority at the embassy and would have valuable information on the Kim Jong Un regime.
Thae was also a trusted member of Pyongyang’s elite, and was seen in 2015 accompanying Kim’s brother Kim Jong Chul to an Eric Clapton concert in London.
A source who spoke to the JoongAng on the condition of anonymity said while arrangements were being made for Thae to be sent to South Korea, U.S. and South Korean intelligence cooperated on the matter and the U.S. side had asked the South Koreans for direct contact with Thae.
The source said Thae had no trouble communicating with U.S. officers because of his high English proficiency, the JoongAng reported.