More North Koreans are fleeing their country for political reasons, rather than economic reasons, and an increase in defections by Pyongyang’s elite will ultimately weaken Kim Jong Un’s regime, South Korea’s unification minister said in an interview.
Hong Yong-pyo, who heads the Ministry of Unification, expects to see more defectors like Thae Yong Ho, the North Korean deputy ambassador in London, whose defection to Seoul last year was the most high-profile in nearly two decades.
A crippling famine triggered the first major wave of defectors from North Korea about 20 years ago, but many now say that they are leaving the country “not just because they are starving, but for a better life, and for freedom and for their children’s education,” Mr. Hong said.
Mr. Thae, the North’s former deputy ambassador to the U.K., defected not for economic reasons, but “for his son’s education,” Mr. Hong said. The rising number of elite defectors, including more than a dozen workers at North Korea’s overseas restaurants who arrived in South Korea last year, “shows how unsettled the Kim Jong Un system is internally,” Mr. Hong said.
[Wall Street Journal]