Thae Yongho makes his debut as a North Korean scholar

Friday 17th February, 2017

North Korean ex-ambassador Thae Yongho attended an international conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS) where he participated in a discussion about security in Northeast Asia.

Thae spoke in the conference’s second session, titled ‘Prospects for Northeast Asian security and South Korea’s choice’, at the Seoul Press Centre on the 9th of February.

This is Thae’s debut as a academic authority on North Korean affairs.

While Thae has been the subject of numerous interviews and lectures since his defection last year, this is the first time Thae has spoken at an academic conference.

After thorough interrogation at the North Korean Defector Protection Centre, a subordinate body to the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Thae was able to pursue activities in the public sphere from December 2016. On the 23rd of December he attended a National Assembly intelligence Committee meeting where he explained his reasons for defection whilst criticising the Kim Jong Un regime.

On the 27th, Thae held his first press conference at the Ministry of Unification, Government Complex Seoul, and claimed that “Kim Jong Un’s regime is a nuclear weapons regime” and that “North Korea will not give up its weapons program even if they were offered one trillion dollars, or even ten trillion dollars”.

Since then, Thae has had numerous interviews with the press. Thae has pledged to remain active in speaking out against the North Korean regime.

Thae chaired the first session of the INSS conference, which included speakers such as Thomas Sphoehr, Director for the Center for National Defence at The Heritage Foundation, Dr. Ruan Zongze, Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies,  Prof. Seiichiro Takagi from the Japan Association for International Security, and  Vasily Mikheev, Vice President of the Russia Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

The second session was a robust discussion between Thae and speakers such as Seogang University professor Kim Jae-chun, and INSS research fellow Kim Kwangjin, chaired by Chun Youngwoo, director of the Korean Peninsula Future Forum.
Reporting by Yoon Hye-ryun.

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