Thae Yong Ho, the former deputy ambassador at the North Korean embassy in the United Kingdom, became the highest-ranking defector in nearly 20 years when he left his post last year.
Thae, who fled with his wife and children, worried about his family back home. Relatives of defectors are often sent to prison camps or used by the regime as propaganda tools.
But back in North Korea, Tae Ok Ran, Thae’s sister, calls that answer “100% evil propaganda.” Not one person in the family has been punished, the 57-year-old housewife said. His sister says it makes him a “rotten scumbag… not even an animal.”
Thae’s brother and sister spoke to CNN for their first-ever interview, which was organized by the government. “It’s good to be able to show how we are living,” Tae Ok Ran said. “I want to warn him the whole family won’t forgive him.”
Tae and her brother, Tae Yong Do, say they believe their brother is now a propaganda tool for South Korea and has brought shame upon their family.
Thae’s name has been erased as a caretaker on the family tombstone and he has been disowned. “If I don’t wash this sin away by myself, my sons and generations will have to work harder to pay for this,” said Tae Yong Do, 53.
Thae’s siblings spoke with a fervor that would have been expected of them, by a government that demands loyalty. North Koreans are often encouraged to report their neighbors for lacking patriotism, defectors say. The Tae siblings expressed a resolve and reverence to their leader that’s common among those on Pyongyang’s streets.