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Seoul will investigate the disclosure of the fact that a senior North Korean diplomat, who went missing in 2018, has been living under the South’s protection. The leak puts at risk his teen daughter, who remains in the North.

Jo Song-gil served as Pyongyang’s acting ambassador to Italy before mysteriously disappearing in November 2018, along with his wife. This week, it was reported that the couple have been secretly living in South Korea since July last year. This makes him the highest-ranking defector to the South since 1997, and the only ambassador-level diplomat to flee North Korea under its current leader, Kim Jong-un.

The former official’s whereabouts were reported by the South Korean media on Tuesday and confirmed later in the day by opposition lawmaker Ha Tae-keung. In a Facebook post, which he said was meant to prevent a media frenzy, the member of the parliamentary intelligence committee acknowledged that Jo and his wife had indeed arrived in South Korea in July 2019, after multiple requests on his part.

It was kept secret from the public because Jo was afraid for his family remaining in North Korea, the lawmaker said. The fathers of both the diplomat and his wife were part of the northern elite before the couple’s defection. Their underage daughter was repatriated from Italy after the disappearance of her parents.

Korean culture holds elders in a family accountable for the misdeeds of the younger members. Pyongyang has a record of retaliating against relatives of defectors, with those fleeing to its southern rival rather than a third country more likely to suffer serious consequences.

After the story was confirmed by government officials, the ruling liberal Democratic Party was accused of deliberately leaking the information to distract the public from the killing of a southern fisheries official by the North’s soldiers last month.

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The gruesome case elicited a rare apology from Pyongyang, but remains a hot-button topic in Seoul. The government of President Moon Jae-in made rapprochement with the North a key policy after taking power from the conservatives, who took a contrasting confrontational approach towards Pyongyang.

“Our government does not intentionally use such an issue or use the release of such information politically, as some news reports do,” Unification Minister Lee In-young said Thursday, responding to the accusations. He promised a thorough investigation into the origins of the leak.

Jo’s path from Italy to South Korea remains a mystery, with officials in Seoul saying only that he and his wife had arrived through a third country. Local media outlets say the couple unsuccessfully sought political asylum in France and Switzerland before turning to South Korea.

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Pakistan blast: At least seven dead in Peshawar school attack






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At least seven people have died after an explosion during a class at a religious school in Pakistan, police have said.

Children of various age groups are among the dead, an officer at the scene told the BBC.

Dozens of others were injured in the attack, which took place in the northern city of Peshawar.

No group has yet claimed responsibility. An investigation has been launched.

The city of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, has seen some of the worst of the violence during the Taliban insurgency in recent years.

Six years ago, gunmen stormed a military school in the city leaving more than 150 dead, including many children.

What happened?

The blast took place at about 08:30 local time (03:30 GMT), police told the BBC.

About 60 people are understood to have been in the class at the religious school, known as a madrassa.


An eyewitness has told the police he saw a man enter the building with a bag of explosives shortly before the blast.

news agency that two teachers were injured.

Hospital officials told Reuters news agency that they had received dozens of injured, many with burns.

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Duterte seeks best Covid vaccine deal but ‘will not beg’ or allow private suppliers to rip off Philippines





Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would pursue a direct government-to-government deal for a coronavirus vaccine with either China or Russia, warning that ‘corrupt’ private suppliers could try to swindle his country.

“Let me tell everybody that we will not beg, we will pay,” Duterte said in a televised address on Monday night, adding that while Manila is not seeking charity it also aims to sign a direct government-to-government deal without intermediaries.

The president did not indicate the status of vaccine negotiations with Beijing or Moscow, saying he merely mentioned the two countries as possible sources out of a “sense of urgency,” and that “all options” were still on the table. 

The one that could give us the best interest for the country will be chosen.

Duterte stressed the need to obtain an inoculation directly from a friendly foreign state, rather than a private business, warning that such transactions could only bring “trouble” and that a government deal would mean “no corruption.”

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Western pharma is ‘all about profit’: Philippines’ Duterte vows to solely procure coronavirus vaccines from Russia & China

Under its proposed national budget for 2021, Manila will devote some 2.5 billion Philippine pesos ($51.6 million) to vaccine procurement, which Duterte said would be overseen by Finance Secretary Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III.

“Since he is going to pay, I will listen to Sonny. If there are no funds, he will go to jail,” the president said, apparently threatening prison time for a member of his own cabinet.

Duterte previously torched Western pharma firms developing coronavirus immunizations, saying they were “all about profit,” pointing to some companies who asked for a “cash advance before they deliver the vaccine.” The leader gave a stern warning to any company who offered similar proposals, vowing “I’ll kick your a**.”

Though the president has offered to be the first in his country to take the jab developed in Russia, Sputnik V, it is not clear whether such an arrangement has been made. However, Moscow’s ambassador to the island nation, Igor Khovaev, recently stated the jab could be available to the Philippines by the end of the year.

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Think your f

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At least 7 killed, 70 wounded after bomb goes off at religious school in Pakistan – hospital official





At least seven people were killed and more than 70 wounded in an explosion inside a seminary in northern Pakistan on Tuesday morning. Children are among the victims.

The blast took place in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Senior police official Wagar Azim told AFP that a bomb brought inside the Speen Jammat mosque, which also functions as a religious school for local children, went off in the middle of Quran studi

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