Trump will meet North Korean defectors in the Oval Office — here's why that's a big threat to Kim Jong Un

  • President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, and it could be a powerful new attack on Kim Jong Un.
  • By reaching out to North Koreans who have abandoned Kim, he puts the North Korean leader in an odd spot.
  • Experts have said that a powerful media campaign against Kim Jong Un could topple his regime in North Korea without a shot fired.


President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, the latest in a new possible vein of attack on Kim Jong Un.

Though Trump has made news repeatedly with bellicose language threatening war with North Korea, his State of the Union address advanced another offensive against Pyongyang — raising the issue of human rights.

"No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea," Trump said on Tuesday. "We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies."

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Special guests, emotional moments from Trump's State of the Union address
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Special guests, emotional moments from Trump's State of the Union address
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: Parents of Otto Warmbier, Fred and Cindy Warmbier are acknowledged during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, parents of children who were murdered by MS-13 watch as U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Preston Sharp (C) waves as he attends the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) (C) gives the thumbs up during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho raises his crutches as he is recognized by US President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Robert Mickens, Elizabeth Alvarado, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, parents of children who were murdered by MS-13 are acknowledged as US President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: First lady Melania Trump claps for Police officer Ryan Holets and his wife during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: Parents of Otto Warmbier, Fred and Cindy Warmbier are acknowledged during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: RObert Mickens, Elizabeth Alvarado, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, parents of children who were murdered by MS-13 are acknowledged as U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) points during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(L-R) Robert Mickens, Elizabeth Alvarado, Evelyn Rodriguez, and Freddy Cuevas are recognized during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: First lady Melania Trump claps for Police officer Ryan Holets and his wife during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho raises his crutches as US President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: First lady Melania Trump claps for Police officer Ryan Holets and his wife during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US First Lady Melania Trump (L) applauds as Police Officer Ryan Holets (C) his wife, Rebecca, and adopted daughter, Hope, are recognized during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Fred and Cindy Warmbier are recognized during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: First lady Melania Trump looks on as Police officer Ryan Holets and his wife are acknowledged during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the first State of the Union address given by U.S. President Donald Trump and his second joint-session address to Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US First Lady Melania Trump (L) applauds as Police Officer Ryan Holets (C) his wife, Rebecca, and adopted daughter, Hope, are recognized during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Fred and Cindy Warmbier are recognized during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Perhaps the most powerful moment of the hour-long address came not from Trump, but from Ji Seong Ho, a North Korean defector and double-amputee who raised his crutches, celebrating his freedom and escape from oppression.

"I was moved to tears," Ji told Voice of America's Korean service. "I have never felt more honored in my life."

But beyond establishing the US's moral high ground in the North Korean crisis, or simply making a point in a speech, Ji said that Trump standing up for those oppressed by the Kim regime could have a powerful effect on politics in Pyongyang.

Trump's expressed concern for human rights "will be meaningful to the people of North Korea," Ji said. "It probably will come as a big threat to the North Korean regime."

Kim's power in question

In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that outside information would be Kim's "kryptonite," a weapon that could collapse the brutal regime without a shot.

Blair advocated a barrage of information from nearby cell towers in China, CDs, USB drives, and other forms of media to inform the public and to "separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry."

Experts routinely point out that Kim's regime survives on its control of people and information, which it enforces brutally with prison camps and death sentences for citizens found with outside media.

But outside media does get into North Korea. South Korean pop music and dramas have become popular among North Korea's elite, but to truly weaponize the trend, the right information needs to get in. That's where Trump reaching out to defectors could play in.

RELATED: Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un

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Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un
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Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un

1. While Kim Jong Un's birthday on January 8 is a national holiday, it is unknown exactly how old the North Korean leader is. It's widely believed he is in his early-mid thirties. In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department listed his birth year as 1984 when they placed sanctions on North Korea.

 (KCNA via REUTERS)

2. Kim Jong Un is the world's youngest leader, according to the date listed by the Treasury. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Kim Jong Un is very passionate about basketball. He is reportedly a big fan of Michael Jordan and has a friendly relationship with Jordan's former Chicago Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman. Rodman has visited the secluded nation multiple times and even sang him "Happy Birthday" before an exhibition game in Jan. 2014. 

(REUTERS/KCNA)

4. Kim Jong Un reportedly has a love for smoking, whiskey and cheese

(KCNA/via Reuters)

5. Kim Jong Un's older half-brother Kim Jong Nam was killed in Feb. 2017 by two women who smeared VX nerve agent on his face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur. The women were arrested following his death. Many believe the hit was directed by North Korea. 

(KCNA; REUTERS)

6. Kim Jong Un has two college degrees. One is in physics from Kim il Sung University and another as an Army officer obtained from the Kim Il Sung Military University.

(KCNA/REUTERS)

7. Kim Jong Un attended boarding school in Switzerland. It is widely disputed how much time he spent at the school. Most reports say he was abroad from 1998-2000. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

8. Kim Jong Un is the only general in the world that does not have any military experience. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

9. He married Ri Sol Ju in 2009. The couple has at least one daughter named Ju Ae. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

10. Kim Jong Un had his uncle Jang Song Thaek arrested and executed for treachery in 2013. 

(REUTERS/Kyodo)

11. Kim Jong Un hand selected North Korea's first all-female music group -- Moranbong Band. They made their debut in 2012. 

(ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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Does Trump have the right message?

North Korea inculcates its citizens with propaganda from birth. They are taught that the US is the enemy, that Kim is their savior, and that there can be no way other than what the state allows.

But North Korean' media is littered with tales of North Korean citizens and their achievements being recognized abroad. North Koreans are conditioned to celebrate the limited world recognition they and their country gets. When North Korean defectors visit the Oval Office, the seat of the greatest political power in the world, and Kim's sworn enemy, how will the citizens at home feel?

Trump has a talent for making news. Defectors shaking hands and speaking with a sitting US president in the White House is huge news for North Korea, but totally contradicts its narratives. The most powerful man in the world is welcoming and honoring North Koreans and standing up for their rights as people.

Kim Jong Un can muster up some more anti-US propaganda, or issue another paper on how Trump tweeting mean things about CNN is a human rights violation, or sentence yet more of his own people to prison camps where tens of thousands already languish in holocaust-level conditions, but he can't change the fact that his citizens live in poor conditions while the world around him thrives.

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