North Korea's youth have 'no loyalty' to Kim Jong-un and are indifferent to politics, defector says in first interview

'The hereditary system is taken as a given, regardless of its inability to feed people'

Jon Sharman
Monday 19 November 2018 18:39
Dramatic footage shows North Korean soldier shot at as he flees to the South

Young North Koreans feel no allegiance to Kim Jong-un and are indifferent to politics, according to a defector who was shot by his own comrades as he escaped across the border last year.

Oh Chong-song, a soldier and son of a general, was captured on camera making the dash into South Korea at Panmunjom village a year ago. He was shot at least four times.

Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, is where Mr Kim met South Korean president Moon Jae-in earlier this year amid a lessening of tensions on the border.

The Panmunjom Declaration, signed by Mr Kim and Donald Trump at their unprecedented meeting this year as a statement of their desire to de-escalate their warlike stances, was named for the village.

The 25-year-old Mr Oh, who described himself as “upper class”, said he was personally “indifferent” to Mr Kim’s despotic rule.

“Inside the North, people, and especially the younger generation, are indifferent to each other, politics, and their leaders, and there is no sense of loyalty,” he told Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper in what it claimed was his first interview.

“Probably 80 percent of my generation is indifferent and has no loyalty,” he told the newspaper. “It is natural to have no interest nor loyalty since the hereditary system is taken as a given, regardless of its inability to feed people.”

Of his dramatic escape, Mr Oh said that he had got into trouble with friends and begun drinking. While making his way back to his post he reportedly broke through a checkpoint, and “feared I could be executed if I went back so I crossed the border”, he said.

The situation on the Korean peninsula has shifted markedly since Mr Moon began applying intensive diplomatic efforts to break down barriers between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

From calling the dictator “little rocket man” and threatening to rain “fire and fury” on Pyongyang, Mr Trump has turned to praising his counterpart as a serious leader and even describing him in admiring terms, despite conditions inside North Korea.

Mr Kim is a third-generation dictator, having taken power in 2011 when his father, Kim Jong-il, died. Both the elder Kim and his father, Kim Il-sung, are venerated in North Korea and their portraits hang on walls throughout the country – in both public buildings and private homes.

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