Forced to witness public executions and beaten for 15 days after his first escape attempt, a former North Korean soldier who dramatically defected to the South talks exclusively to Sky News about the horrors of life under Kim Jong-Un – and how he dreams of one day being reunited with his family.
I asked this former army officer, now defected and living in Seoul, about the TV footage we see from Pyongyang – the vast celebrations last weekend, the resounding applause for the country’s leader.
“When people are clapping,” he says, “if you don’t clap, if you nod off, you’re marked as not following Kim Jong-Un’s doctrine. … You chant ‘Long Live’ and clap because you don’t want to die.”
For all of the very public displays of devotion, he says the reality is a brutal dictatorship. He describes public executions, and a regime that demands total loyalty. “In our unit, when I was a lieutenant, we saw one of our own soldiers executed by gunfire. … I have seen a lot of public executions.”
Under Mr Kim, he says, people are more afraid. “When Kim Jong-Un does something wrong, or if the people don’t live well, he points to someone else and says , ‘you have done it wrong.’ … Therefore, the people get punished, or executed.”
“In North Korea, if you watch South Korean dramas, they can take you away; in extreme cases you can be executed.”