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Former N Korean ambassador to Italy living in South Korea, claims lawmaker

South Korea's spy agency earlier told lawmakers that Jo had left his official residence in Rome with his wife in November 2018

Kim Jong Un, Moon jae-in, north korea, south korea, Korean summit
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, poses with South Korean President Moon Jae-in

A senior North Korea diplomat who had vanished in Italy in late 2018 lives in South Korea under government protection, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

If confirmed, Jo Song Gil, the North's former ambassador to Italy, would be the highest-level North Korean official to defect to rival South Korea since the 1997 arrival of Hwang Jang-yop, a senior ruling Workers' Party official who once tutored leader Kim Jong Un's father, late leader Kim Jong Il.

South Korea's spy agency earlier told lawmakers that Jo had left his official residence in Rome with his wife in November 2018 and was under protection at an unspecified location.