May 4 (UPI) — Two high-profile North Korean defectors have issued apologies in South Korea for comments about Kim Jong Un’s health following the reappearance of the North Korean leader.
Thae Yong-ho, the senior North Korean diplomat who fled Pyongyang’s Embassy in London in 2016, said his decision to speak publicly about the North Korean leader was a mistake, South Korean television network MBC reported Monday.
“I have acutely felt the impact of my words,” Thae said. “I apologize to all [South Koreans], regardless of the reason.”
Ji Seong-ho, a defector who made an appearance at U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018, also apologized for comments made last week.
Ji had said he was “99 percent” certain Kim was dead. Thae had also suggested the North Korean leader was either seriously ill or dead. Neither defector gave evidence to support their claims.
The apologies come after the two defectors, who recently gained seats in South Korean parliament, fell under criticism from their own party, South Korea’s opposition.
Kim Se-yeon, a lawmaker with the United Future Party, told local CBS Radio the defectors might have exhibited “overconfidence” in their speculation.
“I do think they need to apologize,” the South Korean lawmaker had said.
Lee Hae-chan, leader of the ruling Democratic Party, took issue with the media’s approach to rumors surrounding Kim Jong Un.
“In the past few days, rash comments and the response from the media, has been at the level of deplorable,” Lee, a former prime minister, said, while referring to the press and politicians like Thae and Ji, according to local news service News 1.
Kim Boo-kyum, a ruling party lawmaker, has requested Thae and Ji be excluded from sitting on defense and intelligence committees in parliament, according to MBC.
Yun Kun-young, another ruling party politician, said lawmakers deal with classified information pertaining to national security.
“It is true there is concern,” Yun said, referring to Thae and Ji.