Thae Yong-ho worked for many years as a North Korean diplomat at the London embassy. Now he wants to be an MP in the south.
North Korea will remain the theme of his life for Thae Yong-ho. How could it be any different? Thae, 57, has long represented the Communist regime as Vice Ambassador to London. His family tree made him suspicious of being receptive to the temptations of the free world. Nevertheless, he ran to South Korea with his wife and two sons in 2016, wrote an unveiling book and became a sought-after contemporary witness from the mysterious realm of dictator Kim Jong-un.
And the fact that he is the first defector for a direct mandate for South Korea’s National Assembly this Wednesday in the parliamentary elections has to do with his old home. In the fall, the South Korean Navy sent two fishermen back from North Korea because they were suspected of murder. Without a process. “That was so wrong, even if they were criminals,” says Thae. Now he is running for the conservative opposition party VFP in the Seoul district of Gangnam.
The refugees from the north offer their party for the first time
Thaes story is certainly no bigger than the actual subject of this choice at the moment. The management of the coronavirus crisis by the government of Liberal President Moon Jae-in comes to a vote. And it looks like this will favor Moon’s DKP party. The number of new infections has decreased. The survey values are positive for the DKP. The conservatives appear somewhat unimaginative when they warn of the “dictatorship” of the Moon administration, which is heading for the economic abyss.
Nevertheless, Thae’s candidacy represents a new trend in South Korean society. The voice of the defectors in South Korea is growing louder in the fight against social inequalities between compatriots from the north and south. In 2012 in Cho Myung-Chul the first defector over the second votes came to parliament from the conservative NFP. This time, the refugees from the north offer their party for the first time, the south-north unity party. And in Thae they suddenly have a figure of identification that not only enjoys respect in South Korea. He is also an internationally proven speaker.
Thae Yong-ho was a North Korean with no worries. He lived in Denmark, Sweden, England and enjoyed the privileges of the elite. According to his statements, he took flight because he did not want his adult sons to have to adapt to an injustice system whose disadvantages they knew well after their youth in Europe. “As a father, my last wish is to break the chain of slavery,” he says. But it will also have been a relief for himself. As a diplomat, he had to defend a state for years, about which he now says: “There is no freedom there. There is not even the freedom to be unemployed.”
North Korea’s state news agency called him “human scum” after the page change. The worst slander was spread about him from Pyongyang. A return to the north would probably be fatal for him. That’s why Thae Yong-ho was so upset when he heard that South Korea had sent two compatriots back from the north. His election program includes a law that obliges South Korea to admit all North Korean refugees, regardless of what they committed.