- Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)/via REUTERS TV
Thae Yong Ho, the highest-level diplomatic official to defect from North Korea, told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily on Thursday that while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “actually very clever,” his days at the top of the regime are numbered.
As North Korean propaganda dominates outsiders’ perception of its citizens’ lives, Thae, who was the country’s deputy ambassador to the UK before defecting last year, provided a glimpse into a heavily policed but ultimately fragile system.
“Over the past decades, there were a myriad of anti-Workers’ Party, anti-revolutionary events in North Korea that the South could call something close to a pro-democracy movement,” Thae said.
Thae said “ordinary citizens” were “very much against” the leadership, adding that although the North Korean regime could execute people for watching South Korean media, virtually every North Korean did.
“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”
However, Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than we think.
“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”
- Public Domain
But as technology and connectedness proliferate, and as even China embraces free-market ideals and prosperity, North Koreans become exposed to more of the rest of the world, and their government is likely to lose more control over that exposure.
Just as the Soviet Union’s communist regime eventually could no longer stand direct comparison to the prosperous, capitalist West, the people of North Korea will eventually have to compare their repressive, communist government with modernity.