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Ex-N. Korean envoy pledges to bring peninsula closer to unification

Thae Yong-ho speaks at a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Thae Yong-ho speaks at a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)


Thae Yong-ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom before defecting to South Korea in 2016, is aiming for a parliamentary seat. 

Announcing his run in the April general elections under the conservative Liberty Korea Party, the high-profile defector said Tuesday that his mission is to contribute to the reunification of the two Koreas.

“I know North Korea better and deeper than anyone else in South Korea. With my knowledge and experience, I hope to help South Korea chart a more realistic and agreeable path for unification,” he said in a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul.

Hwang Kyo-han, chairman of the right-wing opposition party that recruited him, said Thae would likely be assigned to a constituency in the greater Seoul area.

Thae joined the North’s Foreign Ministry in 1988, and went on to serve as a career diplomat in posts in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. He defected to the South with his family in 2016 out of a thirst for freedom, once saying he wanted to “cut off slavery chain” for his two sons.

Since he has settled in Seoul, Thae has actively expressed his views on the North Korean regime’s strategies and intentions through seminars and media outlets, but the South’s policies toward unification frustrates him and he finds them preposterous, he said.

“Based on my experiences and expertise, I will draw up a bill that contains a realistic unification policy for the true peaceful unification of the South and the North ... and a true policy that everyone can sympathize with,” said Thae, who is one of the highest-ranking government officials to defect among over 30,000 North Koreans who have crossed the border since 1996. 

He said society should depart from what he called its dichotomous way of thinking, which perceives the progressive bloc as a driving force for unification and the conservatives as anti-unification.

“In spite of my poor ability, I wanted to provide support for Korean society … to take a step forward toward unification,” he said.

Through his blog and YouTube channel, he has often analyzed pending issues facing North Korea, including the development of its nuclear arsenal, as well as its food crises and the political status of the reclusive state.

He has often asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has no intention of giving up the country’s nuclear program. He is holding nuclear talks with the US for the purpose of removing the economic sanctions imposed on the regime, Thae believes, and ultimately hopes to gain recognition as a nuclear weapons state like the US, Russia, China and France.


By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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