Defector says sanctions will cripple North Korea


kimmA HIGH-RANKING former member of the North Korean government says the harsh economic sanctions imposed on the country could be enough to wipe it out within 12 months.

Ri Jong-ho, a former economic official appointed by Kim Jong-un’s father and predecessor Kim Jong-il, says the United Nations’ trade restrictions are so strong that it could cripple the isolated nation.

“I don’t know North Korea will survive a year with these sanctions,” he said.

“Many people will die.”

Mr Ri said the sanctions put in place this year were on a “totally different level” due to China closing all North Korean businesses in the country, banning exports of petroleum products and cutting off textile imports.

“It has blocked the market going in and out. Tens of hundreds of companies have been suspended,” he said.

“The impact is significant. That’s why they felt threatened and launched missiles.”

Mr Ri said “everything had stopped” in terms of economic activity in North Korea.

“There is no electricity, yet they are spending their money on military arms,” he said.

“All of the factories that require steel have stopped, so it is like a domino.

“There is hardly power generation so how can the factories run?

“The people are desperate for power generation. They want to run farms.

“When you look at the aerial view of the Korean peninsula, it is pitch black in North Korea.”

Speaking in New York this week at the Asia Society, which is headed by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Ri gave a rare insight into the Kim regime and the fears and insecurities that makes it so volatile.

Mr Ri — a former official with Office 39, a secretive trading organisation under direct control of the Kim family — defected from the hermit kingdom in 2014.

He fled to South Korea, then the US, as Kim Jong-un was executing hundreds of high-level officials, many of whom had been loyal to Kim Jong-il, like himself.

“It was a big shock to us and some people collapsed watching that,” Mr Ri said.

“They shot them in so many pieces there was not enough of a body left for burial.”

He said he had spent 30 years at “centre stage” in North Korea and watched the economic decline that has put its people on the brink of starvation.