Defector to run in elections, aims to bring Koreas closer

Thae Yong-ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UK 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 in politics is to contribute to the reunification of the two Koreas. 

“I will become evidence of (South Korea’s) liberal democracy and represent democracy to North Koreans,” he said in a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul.

The right-wing opposition party recruited him as a candidate for the general elections that will choose 300 members of the National Assembly.

Joining the North’s Foreign Ministry in 1988, Thae had served as a career diplomat in posts abroad in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. He defected to the South with his family in 2016 and once described the move as intended to “cut off the slavery chain” for his two sons.

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

“Based on my experience 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, one of the highest-ranking government officials to defect among over 30,000 North Koreans who have crossed the border since 1996.

He said that society should depart from its dichotomous way of thinking, with the progressive bloc considered a driving force for unification and conservatives as an anti-unification force.

“In spite of my poor ability, I wanted to provide support for Korean society — which stands toe to toe and conflict with each other by being trapped in such a way of thinking — to take a step forward toward unification,” he said.

Unlike other defectors who usually sought for a proportional representation seat, Thae has decided to run in a district of the affluent Gangnam in southern Seoul.

If he gets elected, the elite and envoys as well as residents in the North will have assurance beyond hope, he added.

Through his blog and YouTube channel, he has been analyzing North Korea’s issues including its nuclear arsenal development, food crisis and political status.

He has often asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has no intention to give up the regime’s nuclear program. Nuclear talks with the US are aimed at removing economic sanctions imposed on the regime and ultimately, the North hopes to be recognized as a nuclear-weapons state like the US, Russia, China and France, he said.

By Park Han-na (

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