South Korea's Yonhap news agency says it has learned from intelligence sources that North Korea has recently ordered the adult children of its overseas diplomats to return home.
The sources say officials with South Korea's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, told a parliamentary oversight committee in a closed door session that Pyongyang issued the return order for all diplomats' children 25 years old and older , as part of an apparent effort to stop potential defections.
But a parliamentary source told Yonhap it is believed the order did not directly cause the recent defection of Thae Yong Ho, North Korea's second ranking official in Britain. The source says it is likely that Thae "had been seeking a chance to leave for some time."
South Korean President Park Guen-hye told her National Security Council Monday that Thae's defection was a sign of "serious cracks" in North Korea's ruling elites.
Pyongyang has denounced Thae as "human scum" and accused him of a number of criminal acts, including child molestation.