Editor’s Note: Thae Yong Ho was serving as North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom when he chose to defect with his family to South Korea in 2016. Following the recent release of his book, “Cypher of the Third-Floor Secretariat,” and his departure from the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), he has committed himself to improving the outlook for those still living in the DPRK. His current efforts focus on information sharing and the power of education to effect change.
As one of the highest-ranking diplomats to ever defect, Thae has teamed up with Daily NK and its broader media consortium, Unification Media Group, for a weekly series to share his unparalleled insight into the North Korean system, ethos, and strategic thinking, while unpacking his vision for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Transcript (filmed on August 8):
On July 31, North Korea used its South Korea-directed internet news media ‘Uriminzokkiri’ to state that I had been dismissed from my job as a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS) under the National Intelligence Service (NIS) as a result of North Korea’s hard line actions and South Korea’s public sentiment.
It criticized the fact that I had not learnt any lessons from losing my job and that I continue to engage in an anti-North Korean propaganda campaign.
North Korea released this statement only a month and a half after threatening the South Korean government on May 19th that if it did not take “special measures” to shut the mouth of Thae Yong ho, then South Korean government would face unfortunate events including the cancelling of north-south high-level talks.
During Kim Jong Il’s era, North Korea’s policy was to largely ignore the anti-North Korean activities by North Korean defectors.
However, as the number of North Korean defectors have exceeded 30,000 as well as the decisive role that North Korean defectors played in the adoption of the UN Commission of Inquiry Report on North Korea Human rights in 2014, North Korea has started a massive campaign of personal attacks on individual North Korean defectors who are hostile to the Kim Jong Un regime.
North Korea’s objective of launching personal attacks on North Korean defectors, is to break the spirit of defectors around the world who are working towards unification.
However, North Korea’s personal attack on me this time, was different to the ones in the past.
The emphasis of the latest attack was to create an image as if I had been expelled from my position by the South Korean Intelligence Service due to North Korea’s ultra-hardline measures.
Even when Ryu Kyung, the former Vice Minister of the Ministry of State Security (North Korea’s secret police) was executed in 2011, the MSS circulated the rumours in North Korea that everything that Ryu Kyung had done with the South Korean Intelligence Service when he visited Seoul had been reported to Pyongyang in detail through a spy network.
Now North Korea is trying to arouse fear among North Koreans living overseas, by stating that Pyongyang has South Korea in the palm of its hand as it has the power to dismiss even Thae Yong Ho from an institution by the NIS.
So it is trying to instill a sense of fear that if any North Korean overseas has the idea to contact the NIS agent for money or with a plan to defect– Pyongyang will know all about it.
Recently, North Korea seems to be educating its citizens, that with the progressive government in power in South Korea, even if North Koreans to defect, they will only become “ostracized” like Thae Yong ho or the manager of the Ryukyung restaurant.
The fact that North Korea is generating such propaganda by saying that it is able to control South Korea according to its will, simply shows that North Korea is trying to block as many defections as possible, because defections are a direct threat to the survival of the North Korean regime.
However, North Korea has made a huge mistake of repeating false statements with no hint of truth that no North Korean living overseas would ever believe and it even exposed its own nuclear strategies.
Recently, North Korean regime was infuriated at my talks where I have stated that “North Korea is launching a ‘soft-line policy’ as it is unable to handle UN’s tough sanctions,” and “the June 12th US-North Korea Joint Declaration was a regression from the 2005 September 19th Joint Statement” as well as “we should not separate the end-of-war declaration with denuclearization of North Korea.”
North Korea wants to achieve the declaration of the end-of-war before the end of this by stating that it is the ‘first essential step’ to establishing a peace system on the Korean Peninsula.
I can assume that my constant exposure of North Korea’s true intention of isolating the issue of the end-of-war declaration from the issue of denuclearization is becoming increasingly burdensome.
North Korea also repeated the lie that I had defected because I had been recalled for investigations and I was in fear of being punished for embezzling state funds, selling off state secrets and even raping a minor while I worked at the North Korean Embassy in the United Kingdom.
Considering that it only costs about 10,000 dollars a month to run a small embassy like the North Korean embassy in the United Kingdom and that North Korea struggles to even cover that– there is no money to embezzle.
Furthermore, it is common knowledge that if one is being recalled from overseas for crime investigation, one is not informed of the case and is simply recalled on the guise of a business trip to Pyongyang.
Nonetheless, North Korea’s announcement of the title of my book, ‘Cryptography from the Three-storied Secretariate,’ was a big promotion that will help many North Koreans living overseas easily buy my book online, which is a win for me.