The South Korean government has officially denied reports that associates of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's executed uncle have fled to China.
On Thursday, Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, dismissed media reports about an exodus of high-level North Korean officials associated with Jang Song-thaek, Pyongyang’s former No 2 leader. Jang was executed for treason on December 12.
“We reconfirm that local media reports on senior North Korean officials fleeing to China are not true,” said Kim Ui-do, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry.
The announcement comes after Seoul came under fire for initially giving what critics called a vague response, saying it “knew nothing” of such rumours.
The foreign ministry has also denied reports of senior North Korean officials defecting from the Stalinist country.
Previous media reports claimed that two North Korean vice premiers had arrived in Beijing trying to seek asylum in South Korea and that some 70 associates of Jang Song-thaek had escaped to China.
Other reports said South Korea had sent a team to Beijing to deal with the defections of the high-level North Korean officials.
The South Korean foreign ministry said it was preparing for a possible increase in North Korean defectors in the wake of Pyongyang’s latest political developments.