Escaping North Korea | Thae Yong-ho

Thae Yong-ho | Former Minister of North Korean

Where to find the show


Download Episode MP3 File
The file will open in a new window. Click down arrow to download the file.

Oh, first of all, I think the only change in North Korea could be made upon educating the North Korean people.
— Thae Yong-ho


Location: Taiwan
Date: Wednesday, 11th Sep 2019
Role: Former Minister of North Korean Embassy in London

Following World War II Korea divided. The Soviet Union took control of northern Korea, and the United States took control of the south.

With the onset of the cold war, negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States designed to unify Korea broke down, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was born.

Since the inception of the People's Republic of Korea, the people of North Korea have defected for political, religious or economic reasons. An estimated 100-300 thousand North Koreans have defected, primarily using China as an escape route. If caught, they face deportation back, the possibility of execution and their entire families sent to labour camps.

North Korea's most senior defector is Thae Yong-ho, formerly the Minister of North Korean Embassy in London. In 2016 Mr Thae made the dangerous and challenging decision to defect to South Korea.

In this interview, I talk with Mr. Thae about life in North Korea, his defection to South Korea, the risks, the lack of contact with his family and how getting information of Western culture to the North Korean youth may trigger a revolution.


The success of Defiance will be largely down to the support of you, the listener. Below are a number of ways you can help:

  • Subscribe to the show on your favourite app so you never miss an episode:

  • Leave a review of the show on iTunes (5* really helps, if you think the show deserves it).

  • Share the show and episodes out with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • Follow Defiance on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

  • Subscribe to the Defiance mailing list.

  • Donate Bitcoin here: bc1qd3anlc8lh0cl9ulqah03dmg3r2uxm5r657zr5p

If you have any questions then please email Defiance.


  • 00:00:00 - Show intro

  • 00:01:41 - Welcoming Mr. Thae to the show

  • 00:03:16 - Working for the North Korean regime

  • 00:07:58 - Adjustment to Western life in Denmark

  • 00:09:25 - North Korean class system

  • 00:11:22 - Defecting to South Korea

  • 00:19:41 - Assassination of Kim Jong-nam

  • 00:24:03 - Relationship with Donald Trump

  • 00:30:04 - Labor camps in Russia

  • 00:31:32 - Goals for change in North Korea

  • 00:34:16 - Reunification with the South

  • 00:36:00 - How pop can trigger a revolution

  • 00:38:43 - Black markets in North Korea

  • 00:42:46 - Mobile phones

  • 00:44:07 - Kim Jong-un's Achilles' heel

  • 00:46:05 - Tourism in North Korea

  • 00:47:36 - How the international community can help


Connect with Mr. Thae:

Thae’s interviews:

About North Korea:

Mentioned in the show:

People mentioned in the show:

Media references:


Kraken - the best place to buy, sell or trade Bitcoin.

Peter McCormack