The days of the Kim dynasty holding a total authoritarian grip over North Korea may well be “numbered,” one of the country’s highest-ranking defectors said on Wednesday, adding that dissent is on the rise in the isolated Asian country.
“The traditional structures of the North Korean system are crumbling,” Thae Yong Ho said at a press conference in Seoul, according to the New York Times.
The defection of Thae, North Korea’s erstwhile deputy ambassador to the U.K., with his wife and children last August was one of the most high-profile cases in recent years.
Speaking to reporters, Thae said that the North Korean regime’s attempts to crack down on the spread of outside information and unsanctioned economic activities was not working as a result of corruption and what he called unprecedented resistance.
“Low-level dissent or criticism of the regime, until recently unthinkable, is becoming more frequent,” he said, according to NBC News.
He also said the elites were becoming disillusioned with Kim Jong Un, and predicted that “more defections of my colleagues will take place, since North Korea is already on a slippery slope.”
Thae called on foreign powers to continue sanctions against North Korea, and argued that the dissemination of outside information would be the best way to spark a rebellion within the North.
His words come on the heels of a video, released by the country’s state-run television station, depicting the North Korean leader watching a missile test launch. Kim said during his New Year address that his country was “in the final stages” of preparing to test long-range missiles, a statement that was met with a strong rebuke from the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, the latest South Korean military analysis estimated that the North’s stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium is sufficient for up to 10 nuclear warheads.
- Volodymyr Zelensky and the Spirit of Ukraine: TIME's 2022 Person of the Year
- Mickey Guyton Is TIME's 2022 Breakthrough Artist of the Year
- The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2022
- Column: What Elon Musk Gets Wrong About Free Speech
- The Forgotten Story of One of the First U.S. Soldiers Killed Overseas After Pearl Harbor
- Why You're More Likely to Get Sick in the Winter, According to New Research
- Column: What the Protests Tell Us About China's Future
- 18 Last-Minute Gifts for Everyone on Your List