Can North Korea Become a Democracy?

Event offered by:
National Endowment for Democracy
Foreign Policy Association

Event Details

Monday, October 21, 2019
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM 
The Century Association
7 W 43rd St
New York, NY
Event type
Lecture / Panel  

Event Description

North Korea is arguably the most closed and repressive society in the world. But over the past 25 years, the failures of North Korea’s totalitarian system have created the possibility of internal change. Tens and thousands of North Korean people have fled the country, the vast majority of whom now live in South Korea and support the friends and relatives they left behind through remittances and provision of outside information. The efforts of South Korean and defector organizations to provide independent news and information has cracked the information blockade. Moreover, the expanding private markets in North Korea, which are a product of the failed public distribution system, provide an independent space not only for commercial activities but also for the exchange of ideas and information. The access to outside information has challenged the regime’s propaganda and is changing the mindset of North Korean people. Though North Korea remains a repressive state, opportunities for change are greater than ever before. Mr. Thae Young-ho, the former North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom, will discuss how democracy - once considered inconceivable in North Korea - is now for the first time becoming a real possibility.

Event Speakers

    • Thae Yong-ho - Speaker
      Former Deputy Ambassador of North Korea to the United Kingdom, Author

      Thae Yong-Ho had served as the North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom for three years when he defected with his wife and two sons to South Korea in 2016. Driven by his growing disillusionment with the North Korean government, Thae and his family secretly left London in August 2016, becoming the most senior North Korean official to defect since Hwang Jang Yop in 1997. After studying at Pyongyang University of International Relations and Beijing Foreign Studies University, he held various positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Europe, which included serving as a North Korean diplomat in Denmark and Sweden. Since defecting to South Korea, Thae has been actively engaged in providing critical analysis on North Korea to the international community as a democracy activist. In 2018, Thae published a best-selling memoir in South Korea, titled “Cryptography of the Third-floor Secretariat,” which details his life as a North Korean diplomat before his defection as well as the background behind the secretive Kim family. In March 2019, he founded the Coalition for Let’s Go Together, an organization dedicated to promoting a free and democratic North Korea.

    • Thae Yong-ho

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