Who is Thae Yong-ho, the latest North Korean defector?

Thae Yong-ho, a NK diplomat based in London, defected from his workplace around two weeks ago. His defection may come as a surprise as he led a comfortable life in UK. Therefore I do presume that his life was in danger in UK.

Thae yong-ho worked in the past in Denmark. Overthere, he commaded some illicit foreign currencies operations. In June 2001, he was a member of a DPRK delegation in Belgium.

 Thae Yong-ho, who served as minister at North Korea’s embassy in London, is believed to be the son of late four-star general Thae Pyong-ryol who actively took part in the anti-Japanese campaign, led by North Korea’s late founder Kim Il-sung, according to the source.

Due to his background, Thae Yong-ho (born in 1961) was able to study at the Kim Il-sung University. He worked later at the NK embassy in Denmark, and Belgium. He’s based in UK since 2011. His wife, is five years younger than him. Thae Yong-ho’s wife is either a member of the O Kum-chol family or O Kuk-ryol.

According to South Korean medias, O Hye-son, Thae’s wife, is also known as a descendant of O Paek-ryong who also joined the anti-Japanese guerrilla activities with the communist country’s founder, according to another source. The senior O died at the age of 70 in 1984.

She is believed to be a close relative of O Kum-chol, vice chief of the KPA General Staff, who is the son of O Peak-ryong.

I presume that the second possibility to be more realistic, as Thae yong-ho has chinese background (like O Kuk-ryol)

Kim Jong Chol and Thae Yong Ho
Thae Yong-ho (right) with Kim Jong-chol (left), a brother of Kim Jong-un.

Regarding the reason of his defection, Thae Yong-ho claimed that « Kim Jong-un has been undermining the party leadership, and that other top-level defections may come. » As in the case of Hwang Jang-yop, I do presume that these reasons are false.


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Nicolas Levi

Analyst on North Korean issues

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