A prominent North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea last year appeared before the House Foreign Affairs committee Wednesday, offering a rare public testimony to what life is like for the elite upper class in the closed-off regime of Kim Jong un.

Citing his desire to keep his sons safe and free, Thae Yong-ho believed the only way to ensure they succeeded in a prosperous life was to flee North Korea. He was invited to speak before the Foreign Affairs committee to share and discuss the Kim regime’s vulnerabilities. Mr. Thae’s testimony “will be an opportunity to learn how best to apply maximum diplomatic and financial pressure on the Kim regime. We will examine the impact our sanctions are having, as well as our efforts to empower the North Korean people with the truth about Kim Jong Un’s brutal human rights abuses.” Said committee chairman Ed Royce (R-Ca.)

Thae painted a grim picture of life in North Korea, even for the “wealthy elite” class to which he belonged. “The domestic system of control is weakening as the days go by.” He said. ““The welfare system of North Korea has long collapsed and millions of civil servants, army officers, and security forces are dependent on bribes and state asset embezzlement for their survival.”

But despite the brutal tactics of the Kim regime, the inevitable influx of information from the outside world has started to chip away their stranglehold on the minds of the North Korean people. “While on the surface the Kim Jong Un regime seems to have consolidated its power through this reign of terror, simultaneously there are great and unexpected changes taking place within North Korea.” Thae said.

“These changes, however, make it increasingly possible to think about civilian uprising in North Korea. As more and more people gradually become informed about the reality of their living conditions, the North Korean government will either have to change and adapt in positive ways for its citizens, or to face the consequences of their escalating dissatisfaction.”

Thae warned that Kim Jong Un does not fully understand his relative military weakness, fully believing that he already possesses the conventional means to wipe out South Korea, and will soon acquire the means to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons, elevating North Korea to military parity with the United States.

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“While Kim Jong Un has already long had the tools to destroy South Korea effectively, he also believes it is necessary to drive American forces out of the peninsula. And this can be done, he believes, by being able to credibly threaten the continental United States with nuclear weapons.”

The best way forward, according to Thae, is to continue to push information to the North Korean people, similar to the effects that West German television had on East German citizens that led them to ‘see the light’ of what a free country can provide.

“We cannot change the policy of terror of the Kim Jong un regime. But we can educate North Korean population to stand up by disseminating outside information.”

Image courtesy of U.S. House of Representatives