London defector: Kim Jong-Un regime is losing information war

by WorldTribune Staff, January 25, 2017

The failure of Kim Jong-Un to stop the flow of information and market activities into North Korea could derail the young leader’s regime, a high-ranking defector said on Jan. 25.

“I am sure that more defections of my colleagues will take place, since North Korea is already on a slippery slope,” the defector, Thae Yong-Ho, said during a news conference in Seoul. “The traditional structures of the North Korean system are crumbling.”

Former North Korean deputy ambassador to the UK Thae Yong-Ho talks to the media at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club on Jan. 25. /Reuters

Thae had been Pyongyang’s No. 2 diplomat in London until he fled to South Korea last summer with his family.

While in London, Thae said his sons began asking questions, like why the North Korean government executed people in public without a proper trial. “Their English friends taunted them with questions, like why Mr. Kim had smoked a cigarette inside a nursery,” according to a N.Y. Times report.

The regime “can be held in place and maintained only by idolizing Kim Jong-Un like a god,” Thae said.

“If he tries to introduce a market-oriented economy to North Korean society, then there will be no place for Kim Jong-Un in North Korea, and he knows that.”

Thae said the leader’s efforts to stop the flow of information and products from outside North Korea have been largely unsuccessful because North Korean police accept bribes in exchange for freeing smugglers and people caught watching banned movies and dramas.

“Kim Jong-Un’s days are numbered,” Thae said.

Before his defection, Thae was a career diplomat, fluent in English, who had served in Britain, Denmark and Sweden, “often delivering passionate speeches glorifying the Kim family that has ruled North Korea for seven decades,” the Times reported on Jan. 25.

Thae said he had crafted a detailed plan for his defection, first ensuring that his two sons joined him and his wife in London. (North Korean diplomats are required to leave a child in the North, a measure intended to prevent their defection.)

The day Thae broached his plan for defection with his sons, he told them that he wanted to break the “chain of slavery” for them, he said. They wanted to know if they would have free access to the Internet, books and movies in the South, he said.

Thae said the best way to force change in the North is to disseminate outside information there to push citizens toward rebellion. South Korean TV dramas and movies smuggled from China are already popular in the North, he said.

Unofficial markets in North Korea where women trade goods, mostly smuggled from China, are another sign of the Kim Jong-Un regime’s tenuous grip on power, Thae said. “The vendors used to be called ‘grasshoppers’ because they would pack and flee whenever they saw the police approaching. Now, they are called ‘ticks’ because they refuse to budge, demanding a right to make a living,” Thae said, according to the Times report. Such resistance, even if small in scale, is unprecedented, he added.

In his press conference on Jan. 25, Thae warned against compromising with the North, arguing that sanctions were effective. U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted that he would hold talks with Kim.

According to Thae, Kim seeks to negotiate a compromise, under which the United States and South Korea would cancel their joint annual joint military exercises and lift sanctions on the North in return for a moratorium on North Korean missile and nuclear tests.

Such a deal would validate Kim’s argument that he had been forced to develop nuclear weapons as a reaction to American hostility, Thae said.

“That is really a trap Kim Jong-Un wants.”

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