Koihime Musou Girls and Korean Patriots, Part IX: Taishi Ci and Thae Yong-ho - The Highest Ranking North Korean Defector after Juche Ideologist Hwang Jang-yop
Thae Yong-ho (Hangul/Hanja/Revised Romanisation: 태영호/太永浩/Tae Yeong-ho; Born: July 25th 1962 at Pyongyang) is a former North Korean diplomat. He was North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, prior to defecting with his family to South Korea in 2016. Thae has been variously described as the highest-ranking North Korean official to ever defect, and as a the highest-ranking North Korean defector since the 1997 defection of Juche ideologist Hwang Jang-yop. He is a member of the Former Royal House of Yeongsun Tae (영순 태씨/永順太氏), descended from Dae Jo-yeong's father, Dae Jung-sang which is the Royal House of Balhae Kingdom and originated from the Commune of Yeongsun-myeon, MunGyeong City, Northern Gyeongsang Province.
Thae is married to Oh Hye-seon (오혜선/吳惠善), a member of the influential Oh family in North Korea. They have two sons and one of them known as Thae Kum-hyok (태금혁/太金赫). Their older son is a graduate of a British university, and their younger son, who was born in Denmark, when Thae was serving as a diplomat there, was studying at a London school. The younger son had recently been offered a place to study computer science at Imperial College London. However, the family had been recalled to Pyongyang just before Thae's defection. Thae was able to escape with his wife and children, but his brother and sister were left behind in North Korea. Thae stated after his defection that "I'm sure that my relatives and my brothers and sisters are either sent to remote, closed areas or to prison camps, and that really breaks my heart."
According to BBC reports, Thae is convivial, and enjoys Indian food, playing golf and tennis. In addition to Korean and English, he speaks fluent Mandarin. In 2015, he escorted Kim Jong-chul, the older brother of Kim Jong-un, to an Eric Clapton concert in London. During his time in London, he lived in a two-bedroom flat in West London.
Prior to his defection, Thae was one of North Korea's elite, being regarded by observers as a sophisticated diplomat who was one of the "best and brightest" in the country. Following Thae's defection, the North Korean government denounced of Thae as "human scum."
In August 2016, the South Korean government confirmed that Thae and his family were under their protection. Since his defection, Thae has given many talks and interviews about North Korea's secretive, authoritarian, and frequently violent government. Citing the killings of Kim Jong-nam and Jang Song-thaek, Thae believes that he is likely a target for assassination by Kim Jong-un due to his defection and outspokenness.
In an interview in January 2017, Thae stated that the United Nations sanctions on North Korea were hurting the Kim regime, and that the regime is under significant pressure. In another interview the same month, Thae said, "I am very determined to do everything possible to pull down the regime to save not only my family members but also the whole North Korean people from slavery." Thae believes that "Kim Jong-un's regime one day will collapse by a people's uprising." In an interview in April 2017, Thae stated that Kim was "desperate in maintaining his rule" and was relying heaving on its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deter an external attack and preserve his grip on power.