Thae Yong Ho, the highest-level diplomatic official to defect from North Korea, told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily 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 … something close to a pro-democracy movement,” Thae said. He added that “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.”