What makes North Korea feel so oppressive? If you ask its highest-ranking defector in decades, the answer is censorship. Thae Yong Ho, who was until last summer a Pyongyang envoy in London, argues that increasing the flow of information into the North is what can sow the seeds of popular discord to bring down the Kim Jong Un regime.
[After Thae defected his diplomatic post along with his family] his 19- and 26-year-old sons’ first concern was whether they could freely browse the Internet. “You can go to the Internet, you can do Internet games whenever you like, you can read any books, watch any films,” Thae said he told them.
That’s not the way of life in North Korea, where fewer than 1 percent of the population has Internet access. Foreign books, films and information are banned — and TV only broadcasts propaganda.
Breaking down the censorship and surveillance state from within, Thae believes, is the only way to bring down North Korea’s nuclear weapons-obsessed leader. With information comes education, Thae says — and that can lead to a popular uprising.
“Once they are educated to that level, I am sure they will stand up,” Thae told reporters.
A shortwave radio station called Free North Korea Radio has been delivering information from outside the country since 2005, broadcasting from the second floor of a multipurpose building just outside Seoul.
“The leaflets, USBs with films [stored on them] can be introduced to North Korea. So the ways of educating North Korean people for people’s uprising is also evolving,” Thae said.
This kind of tactic is far more effective than any military action, Thae, the defector, said. Any surgical or preemptive strike on the North in an attempt to eliminate its nuclear facilities would only turn South Korea — a longtime U.S. ally where 28,000 American troops are based — “into ashes,” he told reporters.