Yesterday, rumors of a North Korean diplomat defection started to circulate throughout the media sources pertaining to North Korea – in yesterday’s Daily Update I cited one of those articles from NK News. Today, those rumors were confirmed as the diplomat entered South Korea.
Thae Young-ho was a career diplomat in North Korea, including a 10 year stint at the North Korean Embassy in London. While working in London, Thae was in charge of spreading the North Korean ideology and often extolled the North Korean regime in public settings; Thae had a wonderful mastery of the English language, as highlighted in the attached video in this Beyond Parallel analysis. Thae was also the point man for the regime in Western Europe. According to a BBC news report of the defection, the minsters in London also were in charge of keeping tabs on defectors who had settled in Western Europe.
In July, Thae was reported as missing from his home in London, along with is wife and his son. On Tuesday, the Joongang Ilbo was the first to report the defection of Thae, though the article does not mention his name explictly. South Korea’s Ministry of Unifiction also annouced his arrival in South Korea early this morning; however, they are refusing to release the details of his escape route. Currently, Thae is in South Korea, under the protection of the state as he waits for the final aspect of his defection to be finalized.
Thae’s defection is the first ever from a foreign diplomatic position in history and highlights the growing mistrust in the Kim regime as Kim Jung-un looks to tighten his grip on power within the reclusive country. Thae’s motivation to defect is being reported as disillusionment with the Kim Jung-un regime, and the will for freedom.
The aftermath of defection will likely include a crackdown on the foreign diplomatic core under the regime, as well as in general within North Korea. For South Korea, and the broader international community, Thae has the ability to provide South Korea, and possibly the international community in general, with sensitive intelligance on a variety of aspects about North Korea’s political operations abroad. No matter what information Thae is able to share with foreign governments, his defection is a stain on the credibility of the current Kim Jung-un regime and, therefore, information will be tightly controlled in North Korea. Considering Thae’s rank, more details may also be kept to a select few in South Korea to ensure the security of Thae.