North Korean defector recommends US engage with Pyongyang

A high level defector from North Korea says that the west should use "maximum engagement" to solve the crisis with Pyongyang.

Thae Yong-ho, the former deputy chief of mission for North Korea in the United Kingdom is considered the highest level defector in 20 years. Thae addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, on Tuesday.


"I decided that the best gift which I may give to my son is the freedom which is so common to everyone here," Thae told the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, on Tuesday.

"I strongly believe if we educate the North Korean population, we can change North Korea."

He said nothing can stop what he called Kim Jong Un's "reign of terror," saying Kim would use soldiers and tanks against North Korean street protesters.

He said much more can be done to spread information about the outside in the North, including the use of what young North Koreans call "nose cards" — secure digital cards small enough to smuggle inside a nostril to avoid a body search.

Thae said he believes Kim's intense need to launch missiles and build nuclear weapons came out of his own insecurities and a need to prove his legitimacy after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

"Whenever he watched senior leaders' attitude around him, he thought there was a little looking down upon from the senior leaders because he was the third son. A lot of the North Korean population don't know that he is the third son."

Thae says Kim has yet to publicly reveal his birth date or show childhood photos.

North Korean officials call Thae "human scum," and have accused him of numerous crimes, including embezzlement.

Thae plans to speak before a U.S. congressional committee Wednesday.

These are all fine sentiments but why initiate talks with a regime when it would play directly into their hands? What Kim Jong-un desires most of all is an acknowledgement by the rest of the world of his country's nuclear status. Since the US and the west absolutely and categorically refuse to do that, "engagement" is a hollow recommendation.

Besides, totalitarian regimes are known for prepping would be defectors so they spread false information. It may have been known by the Kim regime that Thae was disgruntled and liable to defect if given the opportunity. Thae may have unknowingly absorbed exactly what the regime wanted him to and then posted him to a place where it would be fairly easy to defect.

I don't doubt the genuineness of his defection. But Thae's recommended course of action is naive. 

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