North Korean diplomats stationed overseas are reportedly refusing an order to send their children home, according to South Korean media.
North Korea's Beijing embassy is reportedly not co-operating
The order was issued earlier this year in an apparent attempt to stop defections from the hardline regime.
It said diplomats should send all but one of their children back to North Korea by the end of March.
But South Korea's Yonhap news agency said diplomats were resisting the order, in an "unprecedented" move.
Yonhap quoted an unnamed source as saying the incident could trigger a "major political scandal", given how unusual it is for North Korea's ruling Communist Party to be disobeyed.
Diplomatic postings are highly sought-after jobs in North Korea, and are only given to the most loyal supporters of the regime.
But analysts say that once overseas, diplomats' exposure to foreign thinking brings them under official suspicion in secretive North Korea.
Earlier this year the regime revived an old regulation which said that diplomats posted overseas could only take one child with them, Yonhap reported.
The regulation was suspended in 2002, allowing diplomats to take out many more children.
North Korea now wants the children sent home, and there are reports that hundreds of children could be affected.
Yonhap's source said opposition to the move was particularly strong among North Koreans living in China, the North's closest ally.
The reports said that diplomats in China had yet to send a single child back to North Korea, prompting the despatch of a senior official from Pyongyang to Beijing to investigate.