WASHINGTON - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian regime may be more vulnerable than people think, a high-level defector suggests, as he urges the U.S. to use “soft power” against Kim.
Thae Yong Ho met with the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington Wednesday.
The former deputy chief of mission at the North Korean embassy in London defected to South Korea with his family last year.
“While on the surface, Kim Jong Un seems to have consolidated his power through this reign of terror ... the free markets are flourishing,” Thae said. “As more and more people get used to free and capitalist style markets, the state-owned socialist economic system becomes increasingly forgotten about.”
Thae says many North Koreans are no longer paying attention to or swallowing state propaganda. He says they are watching more and more illegally imported South Korean television shows and dramas.
“These changes ... 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.”
Thae said the U.S. can help by using what he calls “soft power” — sanctions on top of spreading disinformation that challenges Kim. This includes background on the so-called “dear respected” leader so people will realize Kim and his family “are not gods.”
Thae also said if China would not threaten forced repatriation of North Korean defectors, there would be a “massive exodus” to South Korea that would bring on the North’s collapse.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said all options are on the table in dealing with Kim, his nuclear weapons and his threats.
But Thae cautioned against a pre-emptive military strike, saying it would lead to a “human sacrifice” in the South.
“North Korean officers are trained to press their button without any further instructions from the general command if anything happens. We have to remember that tens of millions of South Koreans population are living 70 to 80 kilometers away from this military demarcation line.”
North Korea has blasted Thae as “human scum” and a criminal who stole state funds.
But Thae said he defected because he did not want his sons to become “modern-day slaves.”