North Korea, a 120,000 square kilometer country squeezed between China and South Korea, is infamous for its dictatorship and self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. Due to this seclusion, little is known about the world within its borders and the kind of lives that its citizens lead. Few are able to escape from its brutal claws and live to tell the tale. And, from those who defected and survived, we hear harrowing and gruesome stories of torture, murder, slavery, and starvation.
Thae Yong-ho, the North Korean Deputy Ambassador to Great Britain, defected in August 2016 from the vile regime. He and his family were then secretly transported to South Korea where they presently live. Now, he has decided to speak about life under Kim Jong-un’s regime, stating that his defection was partly because he was “sick and tired” of the government. After his defection, the North Korean government accused the former diplomat of several crimes, including raping a minor, embezzling government funds, and spying for South Korea.
Thae Yong-ho is one of the highest-ranking officials to have renounced Kim Jong-un’s regime.
In an interview with the South Korean press and officials, he revealed that North Korea believes that 2017 is the most suitable time to move forward with its nuclear program, thanks to changes in leadership in the United States and in South Korea, two of its most ardent critics. However, as a diplomat, he also mentioned that he was not privy to details about the program. He also added that the key to the regime’s fall might be outside information enters the territory.
Thae Yon-ho said:
“North Korea will collapse on its own when enough external information introduced through drones or USBs reveals the truth of the Kim regime to the residents. North Korean society is being held in place by the deification of its former leaders.
“This is why the North Korean regime is taking extensive measures to prevent the influx of external information. It continuously lectures people not to watch South Korean movies, TV series, or media.”
“It is not easy for North Koreans to understand the concepts of the ICC or human rights. But they will be greatly interested if they hear that Kim Jong Un will be tried at the international court. It will be a direct sign that Kim Jong Un is a criminal and his regime has no future.”
When asked about his reasons for defection, he answered:
“When Kim Jong Un first came to power, I was hopeful that, as he had studied abroad for a long time, he would make reasonable and rational decisions for the future of North Korea and the Korean people. But I soon fell into despair watching him purging officials for no proper reason.
“In particular, Kim Jong Un announced at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party held in May that, ‘We must complete the task of nuclear development by 2017, using the phase of political transition both in South Korea and the US.’ Watching him announce such fanatical policies and obsessing over nuclear development, I came to the decision to defect to South Korea in order to do something to save the Korean people from nuclear disaster.
Thae further claimed, “As long as Kim Jong-un is in power, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, even if it’s offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion in rewards.”
Thae also expressed his intent to work towards democratization and the upholding of human rights in North Korea despite knowing that this might probably place his life at peril.
“I realized that there is no future for the North Korean regime by learning of South Korea’s economic miracle and the process of democratization via the internet.
“It breaks my heart to think about my family and colleagues in the North who must be suffering because of me. But isolating myself and crying won’t effect any change. I vow to fight to bring down the regime and through this process facilitate the unification of the two Koreas.
Thae did not disclose details of his defection and escape.