WHILE the world is focused on weapons and sanctions, a defector says there is a much more effective way to stop North Korea.
A NORTH KOREAN defector says the US should focus less on military options and more on spreading information from the outside world to the general population if it wants to defeat Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Thae Yong-ho, the former deputy chief of mission at the North Korean embassy in London, says a “civilian uprising” is becoming an increasing possibility as more pop culture and international news sneaks its way into the hermit kingdom.
“The citizens do not care about state propaganda but increasingly watch illegally imported South Korean movies and dramas. The domestic system of control is weakening as the days go by,” Mr Thae told a US congressional hearing on Wednesday.
“Back in 2010, during the Arab Spring, many experts said it would be impossible to imagine such similar events taking place in North Korea. 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.”
Despite Mr Kim’s “reign of terror”, North Korea was undergoing significant changes, Mr Thae said. Free markets were flourishing and the socialist economic system was breaking down.
He urged the US to exhaust all other options before taking military action because a pre-emptive strike on North Korea would trigger an automatic retaliation of missile fire on the South.
“North Korean officers are trained to press their button without any further instructions from the general command if anything happens on their side,” he said.
He encouraged the US to meet with Mr Kim at least once to understand his thinking and convince him of the might of the American arsenal.
“We cannot change the policy of terror of the Kim Jong-un regime. But we can educate [the] North Korean population to stand up by disseminating outside information,” he said.
“However, is the United States really doing enough in this regard? The US is spending billions of dollars to cope with the military threat. Yet how much does the US spend each year on information activities involving North Korea in a year? Unfortunately, it may be tiny fraction.”
Mr Thae argued that the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and East Germany would not have fallen without the dissemination of outside information changing citizens’ thinking.
The internet is highly restricted in North Korea and all of the media is state-controlled.
Mr Thae is not the first to suggest waging a war of information against the Kim regime.
Former US Navy SEAL Jocko Willink gained attention in September when he suggested dropping 25 million iPhones on the country — one for each citizen — and then beaming free wi-fi to them via satellite.
A North Korea expert told Business Insider the concept could actually work.
“Kim Jong-un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realise what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Yun Sun, of think tank The Stimson Center, said.
These ideas complement a campaign called Flash Drives for Freedom, which asks people to donate their old USB sticks so that they can be filled with films and e-books, and then smuggled into North Korea to open citizens’ minds and weaken the country’s propaganda.
Mr Thae was a high-level diplomat with the rogue regime until he defected to South Korea last year.
He lived a privileged life by North Korean standards, having been treated to an elite education in China and having also lived and worked in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
“The reason why I gave up all the privileges and economic benefits was that I felt I could not let my sons lead a life like me, as a modern-day slave,” he said.
“I believed the best legacy I could leave for my sons was to give them the freedom that is so common to everyone in America.
“Had we not defected, I feared that some day my sons would have cursed me for forcing them back to North Korea. They were used to online gaming, Facebook messaging, email and internet news.
“I believed my sons would suffer a lot if they returned to the North Korean system. Indeed, how could any boys raised in the London education system and familiar with freedom of thought ever go back and reacclimatise to life in North Korea?
“I could not confiscate freedom and enjoyment of liberty from them.”
Mr Thae could no longer work as an advocate for North Korea when his British friends began asking questions he could not answer, such as why Mr Kim ordered his own uncle to be executed and why the regime appealed for humanitarian aid while pouring millions of dollars into nuclear and missile development.
“As a North Korean diplomat, everyday activities and services were like leading a ceaseless double life, which was psychologically difficult,” he said.
“I had to pretend to be loyal to the Kim Jong-un regime, even though my heart did not agree. I often was asked questions by my British friends which caught me flat footed.”
After his defection, North Korea called Mr Thae “human scum” and accused him of embezzling government money, among other crimes.
US President Donald Trump will begin a 12-day tour of Asia on Sunday, during which time he will visit South Korea.
Source: James Law News.com.au