Thae Yong-ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador in London who defected to South Korea in July, says clashing with Pyongyang over its nuclear program has strengthened Kim Jong Un’s leadership, but continued human rights criticism and increased information from the outside world will over time lead to the downfall of the authoritarian and repressive regime.
Thae says the leadership in Pyongyang is unwilling to give up its nuclear program, and its defiance in the face of U.S.-led pressure has helped solidify internal popular support and earned the leadership a degree of international respect. “Some countries are interested in following North Korea’s path to become nuclear powers themselves. Therefore, North Korean diplomats retain their dignity despite the criticisms of the international community,” Thae said.
He says, however, international criticism about human rights abuses in North Korea undermines Kim’s standing in the world and with his own people.
Thae says North Korean diplomats have faced denunciations from allies and adversaries alike over Pyongyang’s human rights record, but the leadership is more concerned about how this kind of criticism could damage the carefully nurtured public image of Kim as a near-infallible leader.
“It is not easy for North Koreans to understand the concepts of the ICC or human rights. But they will be greatly interested if they hear that Kim Jong Un will be tried at the international court. It will be a direct sign that Kim Jong Un is a criminal and his regime has no future,” he said.