Kim Jong-un would launch a nuclear attack if his rule was threatened, says North Korean defector

'He would wage nuclear war even if he knew it would mean finishing himself and harming the North Korean people,' says former state propaganda artist

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The Independent Online

A North Korean defector has argued the country’s leader Kim Jong-un would launch a nuclear attack if his rule was threatened.

Song Byeok, a former state propaganda artist, said the supreme leader would issue an attack even if it were to result in the destruction of himself and his country.

The political refugee, who now lives in South Korea where he critiques the regime through dissident artwork, said he hoped US President Donald Trump would find a way to remove Mr Kim from ruling the one-party state.

“I think Kim Jong-un could wage nuclear war if his power is threatened and that is why he needs to be removed as soon as possible,” the 48-year-old told The Independent in a wide-ranging interview.

“He would wage nuclear war even if he knew it would mean finishing himself and harming the North Korean people because he is young and ambitious and doesn’t care about the lives of North Koreans. He also doesn’t know anything about their lives.”

Although there is significant doubt around whether North Korea has the technological capacity to launch a direct attack on America, experts warn they are getting closer and are still able to target Seoul or Tokyo.

Mr Song, who escaped the “hermit kingdom” in 2002, said he was not concerned about mounting tensions between the US President and the North Korean leader and was happy to see Mr Trump taking a tough stance on the regime.

“I do not worry about the relationship between Trump and Kim Jong-un. I really hope that Trump will remove Kim Jong-un - that is the only way that North Korean people can be free and happy.

“In April I was demonstrating in front of the White House holding a picture of Kim Jong-un calling on Trump to remove him.”

But Mr Song was not wholly positive about the US President, saying: “I think Trump and Kim Jong-un are similar types of people.”

Hostility between the President and Mr Kim has come to a head in recent weeks. The Trump administration has warned the Obama-era policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over and Mr Trump has adopted an increasingly tough tone. 

Pledging to “properly deal” with Pyongyang and solve the problem “with or without” China’s help, the President has raised alarm bells over a pre-emptive strike that could potentially elicit a nuclear response. At the end of April, he said he would like to resolve the situation peacefully but warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is “absolutely possible”.

The response from North Korea has been equally aggressive, with Pyongyang threatening a “merciless response” to any US provocation. At the end of last month, Mr Kim’s government threatened to sink a US nuclear submarine that had been deployed to South Korean waters. 

Mr Song, who lost all of his family members in the famine which struck North Korea in the 1990’s, predicted that North Korea’s regime would fall, claiming that increasing numbers of people are starting to doubt Mr Kim’s grip on power.

“Kim Jong-un is the third generation and even North Korean people are gaining access to foreign media, so they know what is going on, so they probably pretend to be loyal in front of him, but inside they don’t agree,” he concluded.

He argued the wealth of an emerging class of elite North Koreans was ceasing to trickle down into the pockets of the masses. While the majority of North Korea’s 25 million citizens endure starvation due to struggles with food production, there is a burgeoning demographic of elite North Koreans.

Living in what has been termed “Pyonghattan”, the upper echelons of society, who tend to hold official government positions, adopt a highly different lifestyle to the rest of country. While others struggle to subsist, they spend money on designer clothes, eating in fancy restaurants and enjoying a range of new amusements Mr Kim has built for them. 

“The North Korean government builds these things [the water park in Pyongyang and other luxury developments] just for show. It’s just one per cent of the population using that kind of facilities.”

But life remains stark for the overwhelming majority of citizens living under a regime a UN report accused of crimes against humanity, including systematic extermination, torture, rape, forced abortions and starvation.

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