North Korean defector Thae Yong-ho speaks after receiving an award at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. /Yonhap

Thae Yong-ho, the former deputy ambassador to the U.K., has won an award for his humanitarian activities since his defection.

Thae was given the 2017 Human Rights Activist award by the KNA Human Rights Forum and Korean Parliamentary League on International Parliamentarians' Coalition for Asian Human Rights on Monday.

In his acceptance speech, Thae talked about a young North Korean soldier who made a dash across the border last month amid a hail of bullets and said he believes the soldier's desperate act "represents the feelings of all North Koreans."

"What the Kim Jong-un regime is truly afraid of is the growing interest in South Korean culture among North Koreans, and how public sentiment is becoming more independent of the authorities," he said.

Thae also called on the South Korean government to continue addressing the North Korean regime's human rights abuses. Thae added that South Korea should convince China to allow North Koreans to come to South Korea freely.

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