There are "serious concerns" among some North Korean officials that North Korea could turn into a vassal state of China amid growing economic dependence on its sole ally, a defector said Monday.
Kim Chong-song, who under his real name used to be a senior member of the Workers Party, is the highest-ranking North Korean defector living in the South and spoke to media here for the first time.
"Without Chinese capital and goods, it would be impossible for the North Korean government to operate, and ordinary people would not be able to carry on with their daily lives," Kim said. "North Korea grew so dependent on China in the 20 years of Kim Jong-il's rule that it's now impossible to construct buildings, grow farm produce, or sustain the regime without imports of Chinese materials, fertilizer and pesticides."
Kim said North Korean officials are aware of problems like mounting trade deficits and loss of capital, but there is no alternative. The North is handing over mining rights and licenses to develop special economic zones to China, but at the same time the regime "doesn't trust China.”
Kim recalled that nation founder Kim Il-sung, who signed a friendship treaty with China in 1961, warned North Koreans not to trust the Chinese. "This is why North Korea is unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons despite pressure from China."
North Koreans living in the border regions are so difficult to control that Kim Jong-il once asked whether they were part of North Korea at all. "If the central government issues orders, officials in the provinces just file false reports to maintain their privileges, which has become a chronic problem," Kim said. "Kim Jong-un basically just rules over Pyongyang, and even the North’s second city of Hamhung is a different world."
Kim said high-ranking officials live in constant fear of being purged. "Once in power, North Korean officials try to stash away as much wealth as possible and then resign quietly citing family matters or health problems," he said.