The highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect to the West in two decades told BBC News on Wednesday that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, will eventually lose his grip on power in Pyongyang.
In the extensive interview, Thae Yong-ho also expressed despair over leaving his homeland, fears for the safety of family he left behind and relief in his new life.
A career diplomat who also served in the North Korean embassy in Denmark before becoming the deputy ambassador to the Court of St. James’, Mr. Thae disappeared from his post in London in the summer of 2016.
Shortly thereafter, the South Korean government admitted he and his family were living in South Korean protective custody. When his defection was made public, North Korean propaganda machines described his as “human scum.”
Thae declined to say whether American, British or South Korean intelligence services aided in his escape, but admitted North Korean diplomats and embassy employees regularly engage in criminal behavior ranging from the counterfeiting of money and fraud to dodging local ordinances.
When addressing weightier global issues, Thae let slip Pyongyang’s Supreme Leader does not yet have the capability to obliterate the United States with a nuclear device, but the North’s crash nuclear weapon program is only months away from perfecting a ballistic missile capable of striking U.S. soil.
Similarly, Thae communicated Kim’s willingness to utilize weapons of mass destruction once the North Korean dictator has produced one and if the circumstances required its use:
“Kim Jong-un knows that nuclear weapons are the only guarantee for his rule. And Kim Jong-un, I think, will press the button on these dangerous weapons when he thinks that his rule and his dynasty is threatened.”
After acknowledging Pyongyang is suffering greatly under the crushing weight of UN economic sanctions, Thae confessed his confidence the people of North Korea will be inspired to act against Kim when the world surrounding North Korea is revealed to its citizens through the flow of information.
“Will Kim Jong-un die peacefully in his own bed?,” BBC asked, to which Thae responded:
“No. I’m sure that Kim Jong-un’s regime one day will collapse by a people’s uprising.”
Thae also spoke to reporters Wednesday, saying UN sanctions against the Kim regime were having a positive effect and that communication technologies have filtered into North Korean society, giving ordinary citizens information about the world via South Korean media.
[BBC] [Wall Street Journal] [Photo courtesy NK News]