In his first interview since defecting to the South more than a year ago, Ryu Hyeon-woo told CNN that “North Korea’s nuclear power is directly linked to the stability of the regime” — and Kim likely believes nuclear weapons are key to his survival.
Ryu also said previous US administrations had boxed themselves into a corner by demanding denuclearization up front in negotiations with the totalitarian state.
“The US can’t back down from denuclearization and Kim Jong Un cannot denuclearize,” he added.
Ryu and his family defected to South Korea in September 2019, but their actions were only made public last week. Determined to give their teenage daughter a better life, Ryu said he and his wife planned their escape for about a month while living in Kuwait.
Ryu said that if they had been caught, North Korean agents would have quickly taken them all back to Pyongyang for certain punishment, as defection is considered a major embarrassment to the Kim regime and is not taken lightly.
They finally told their daughter about the plan while pretending to drive her to school.
“Come with Mom and Dad to find freedom,” Ryu recalled telling his daughter. “She was shocked, then said, ‘Okay.’ That’s all she said.”
Ryu took his family to the South Korean embassy in Kuwait to claim asylum. They traveled to South Korea several days later.
Defection from North Korea comes at a monumental cost, with defectors having to instantly sever ties from all family left in their home nation.
The regime often punishes nuclear and extended families of defectors to deter people from leaving, Ryu said — especially diplomats. Those posted abroad are often forced to leave a child at home as a hostage, ensuring their parents do not defect.
“I think that North Korea having such feudal collective familial punishment in the 21st century is appalling,” Ryu said.
He is now worried about his three siblings and 83-year-old mother still in North Korea. “I just want to see them live long,” Ryu said. “Any thought of them being punished for what I’ve done just hurts my heart.”
He also worries for his wife’s elderly parents living in Pyongyang.
North Korea has long been accused of using its embassies as cash cows for the ruling Kim family. Ryu said that while he was a trained diplomat dealing with politics, there were also “economic trading workers” assigned…
Go to the news source: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un cannot denuclearize, former diplomat says