Thae Yong Ho, a North Korean diplomat stationed in London who recently defected to South Korea, told reporters from CNN that Kim Jong Un won’t be parted with his nuclear weapons program, but has expressed an interest in meeting with new American president, Donald Trump.
“As long as Kim Jong Un is in power, there’ll be no chance for the world to improve the human rights issue” or cancel “the nuclear program,” he said.
He also explained that American-led sanctions are working in the reclusive Asian country, and that they have had a clear effect on domestic policy and the perceptions of Kim Jong Un among his people, and even senior leaders within his staff. According to Yong Ho, the financial repercussions of Kim’s policies are having a “psychological effect on North Korean people and high-ranking officials,” and that he anticipates that we’ll begin to see even more members of Kim’s elite flee the nation out of fear for their own safety due to Kim’s continued issues establishing legitimacy as a leader in the minds of his people.
“If Kim Jong Un decides to kill someone, if he thinks that he is a threat or he scared him, he just wants to get rid of him, that is the present reality of North Korea,” he said.
According to Yong Ho, Kim did not anticipate that Donald Trump would win the presidential election, but was pleasantly surprised at the outcome, calling it “a good opportunity for him to open a kind of compromise with the new American administration.”
Trump indicated during his presidential campaign that he would be open to meeting with the North Korean dictator. North Korea has continued to advance a nuclear weapons program that Trump may hope to put an end to through easing of economic sanctions placed on the nation, though Yong Ho doesn’t believe such an agreement could be made.
Current sanctions have crippled the already struggling North Korean economy. Yong Ho pointed out that Kim had initiated plans to establish two government ministries for the sole purpose of seeking foreign investment, but has since had to abandon plans for both as a result of the “ground-breaking” sanctions, but in an echo of Donald Trump’s own sentiments, he believes China must take on a more active role in enforcing such sanctions for them to have a real effect.
Yong Ho also urged President Trump not to meet with the North Korean leader, stating that such an engagement would grant Kim a legitimacy he does not currently have. Although the unquestioned leader of the North Korean state, Kim has yet to establish a real sense of validity to his rule among many North Koreans who don’t see him as quite as “supreme” a leader as they did his father and grandfather.
“After 5 years in power, he couldn’t even tell the North Korean people about his date of birth, when he was born, about his mother, his relationship with his grandfather,” Yong Ho explained about Kim’s inability to garner real support among his people.
“Even Chinese President Xi Jinping and even Russian President Putin — they haven’t even met Kim Jong Un,” he added regarding the lack of recognition even nations friendlier to North Korea have awarded its leader.
Yong Ho escaped North Korean officials by fleeing with his family from London to South Korea. In London, he claimed to be under near constant surveillance and that the North Korean regime leveraged his family’s safety to ensure he maintained North Korean ideals in the face of Western politics.
“The children are used by Kim Jong Un as kind of hostage,” he says. “Kim Jong Un abuses even the love between parents and children.”
He went on to express his gratitude to those who helped get him and his family away from the danger posed by defecting from the North Korean state, but said his new life is bitter-sweet.
“It made my life very miserable because I spent 50 years of my life on the wrong side, and I have to deny my past.”
Image courtesy of CNN