Ex-N Korea diplo­mat fled due to ‘reign of ter­ror’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A high-pro­file North Korean de­fec­tor told South Korean law­mak­ers yes­ter­day that he fled be­cause of dis­il­lu­sion­ment with what he de­scribes as a “tyran­ni­cal reign of ter­ror” by leader Kim Jong Un, ac­cord­ing to one of the law­mak­ers who at­tended their pri­vate meet­ing. Seoul an­nounced in Au­gust that Thae Yong Ho, No 2 at the North’s em­bassy in Lon­don, had come to South Korea with his fam­ily be­cause of his dis­gust with North Korea. Py­ongyang later called him “hu­man scum” who em­bez­zled of­fi­cial funds and com­mit­ted other crimes.

Thae, who has been un­der the pro­tec­tion of the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice, met with South Korean law­mak­ers yes­ter­day to­gether with NIS of­fi­cers, ac­cord­ing to Lee Cheol Woo, one of the law­mak­ers. The NIS, South Korea’s main spy agency, said it couldn’t con­firm the meet­ing. Lee’s of­fice cited Thae as deny­ing the North Korean ac­cu­sa­tions and say­ing he de­cided to de­fect af­ter re­al­iz­ing the North’s “hor­rific” real­ity. He was quoted as say­ing he learned about South Korean democ­racy by watch­ing South Korean dra­mas and movies.

He told law­mak­ers that North Kore­ans are suf­fer­ing “slav­ery” un­der Kim’s dic­ta­tor­ship and that higher-level of­fi­cials are sub­ject to more in­tense state sur­veil­lance. Thae, who is to be re­leased into South Korean so­ci­ety on Fri­day, said he’ll try to pub­licly raise the North’s sit­u­a­tion, Lee’s of­fice said. South Korean me­dia said that Thae will be un­der a po­lice pro­tec­tion pro­gram af­ter his re­lease into so­ci­ety.

Thae is the most se­nior North Korean diplo­mat to de­fect to South Korea. In 1997, the North Korean am­bas­sador to Egypt fled but re­set­tled in the United States. Kim, be­lieved to be in his early 30s, took power upon the death of his dic­ta­tor fa­ther, Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. He’s since or­ches­trated a se­ries of high-pro­file ex­e­cu­tions, purges and dis­missals in what out­side an­a­lysts have said was an at­tempt to bol­ster his grip on power. More than 30,000 North Kore­ans have de­fected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, ac­cord­ing to the South Korean gov­ern­ment. Many de­fec­tors have said they wanted to leave North Korea’s harsh po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and poverty. — AP

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