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Defector says North Korea 'popular uprising' likely

Defector says North Korea 'popular uprising' likely
Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korea diplomat, said the North could undergo change led by a younger generation in the next two decades, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A former North Korean diplomat in the South said mass unrest is possible in his country of origin in the next 20 years, despite perceptions Kim Jong Un suppresses dissent and keeps the nation hermetically sealed from the outside world.

Thae Yong-ho, 58, said in an online discussion Wednesday that the youth of North Korea are becoming the "main pillar" of their society, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.

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North Korea's young generation, who may have not been alive during the Cold War or during North Korea founder Kim Il Sung's period of rule, are confronting new change.

During his online lecture, Thae suggested the well-known satellite images of North Korea shrouded in darkness at night reflects a country that is not keeping up with changing times.

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"It is natural that living things move toward the light," Thae said, according to the Donga.

The defector, a politician with the main opposition People Power Party, is a critic of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Thae said even as a high-ranking diplomat in North Korea, his monthly salary was 2,900 won. The Donga did not state whether Thae was referring to the South or North Korean currency. In South Korea, 2,900 won is the equivalent of $2.60.

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Thae, a member of North Korea's privileged class before his escape from Pyongyang's Embassy in London in 2016, had more access to information about the outside world than most of the population.

The defector said while in Britain he took note of South Korean professional soccer player Song Heung-min's success as a forward for Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.

Thae also said a caste system in North Korea eliminates the need for meritocratic examinations available in the South, according to the report.

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Thae did not mention North Korea could collapse, a scenario that has become a topic of discussion among analysts in the field.

Sang Ki Kim and Eun-ju Choi wrote on 38 North that the collapse scenario is a "fallacy" in a commentary published Monday.

"In the Kim Jong Un era, markets have become part of the structure of the national economy," the analysts said.

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