North Korea calls senior diplomat who defected 'human scum'

Thae Yong-ho was serving as North Korea’s deputy ambassador to UK when he defected to South Korea

North Korea calls senior diplomat who defected 'human scum'

People watch a TV news program showing a file image of Thae Yong Ho, minister at the North Korean Embassy in London | Image: Ahn Young-joon / AP/Press Association Images

North Korea has described a senior diplomat who defected to the South as "human scum", claiming he is wanted for a number of crimes.

Thae Yong Ho, who was North Korea's deputy ambassador in London, arrived with his family in Seoul on Wednesday according to South Korea's Unificiation Ministry.

He is the highest-ranking diplomat ever to defect to the South and did so due to discontent with the regime and for the future of his child, according to officials in Seoul.

In the North's first official response, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Thae had been ordered to return home in June to be investigated for a series of crimes.

The alleged offences include embezzling government funds, leaking confidential secrets and sexually assaulting a minor.

KCNA said Thae "should have received legal punishment for the crimes he committed, but he discarded the fatherland that raised him and even his own parents and brothers by fleeing, thinking nothing but just saving himself, showing himself to be human scum who lacks even an elementary level of loyalty and even tiny bits of conscience and morality that are required for human beings".

It also accused Seoul of using Thae's defection to insult the North Korean leadership, and denounced the British government for allegedly rejecting demands to extradite him back to North Korea.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Since then more than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to the South, according to the South Korean government.