Keeping America Strong. Promoting Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Abroad.

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Suzanne Scholte | President, Defense Forum Foundation; Seoul Peace Prize Laureate

Having devoted over twenty years of my life promoting freedom and human rights for the people of North Korea, I confess I got a very queasy stomach seeing the American flag, the symbol of freedom, next to the flag of the Kim family dictatorship – better known as the flag of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

My stomach got even queasier seeing the democratically elected leader of the Free World, Donald J. Trump, treat the hereditary dictator Kim Jong Un, known for his crimes against humanity, as an equal.

And it got even worse when Trump described Kim as an “honorable man” who “loves his people.”

What flashed back in my memory at that moment was a document sent to me secretly in 1999 by a disgruntled Voice of America (VOA) reporter. The document was a Department of State memo spiking the reporter’s article about the first hearing ever held exposing the horrific political prison camps in North Korea with eyewitnesses, survivors of these camps.

The Congressional hearing held on April 29, 1999, was chaired by then Senators Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) but the VOA story about the hearing was spiked because the accuracy of the survivors was questionable and because the “timing [was] not good” because the Four Party Talks had just concluded with North Korea’s promise to allow inspection of an underground nuclear site.

I keep this document always at hand as a way to remind myself of how far we have come and to never give up, because — despite the initial skepticism that North Korea was committing unspeakable atrocities against its own people — today, no one questions the horrific violations occurring in North Korea every day in these camps and throughout the country.

So, you can imagine how for those survivors of this regime and for those of us who have worked so hard to expose these atrocities, the Singapore Summit looked like all of that was slipping away with human rights once again being shoved aside.

But then it dawned on me the morning after the Singapore Summit: this is the beginning of the end of the Kim regime because it is “The Art of the Deal” personified by Trump vs. “The Art of Deception” personified by Kim Jong Un. I will predict at this moment in history that because of President Trump, we will finally see the end of the Kim dictatorship. This summit has set that outcome into irreversible motion.

Here’s why I make this bold prediction:

When Trump responded via tweet to Kim Jong Un with: I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” I laughed so hard, I cried. I realized it was brilliant. It rattled that young dictator to his core and it rattled North Koreans who have been raised from childhood to treat Kim as their “god.”

But Trump has got this dictatorship in his sight, and if Kim Jong Un does not change his wicked ways, his reign is over.

I know that my dearest colleagues, the escapees from North Korea and the North Korea human rights activists, are currently despondent about this summit and its potential to further elevate Kim to his god-like status in North Korea and solidify his power among those who dare to challenge him, but what Trump, in fact, has done is pull the rug right out from under the dictator.

Among the ways that Kim has maintained power is by isolating his people from the outside world and brainwashing them to believe that America is their sworn enemy bent on their destruction.  They are literally fed propaganda from childhood to hate Americans as “Yankee imperialist wolves” who are the source of all their misery, the occupiers of South Korea and the reason the Korean family is divided.

Thanks to the North Korean defectors and their nonstop relentless campaign of radio broadcasting, balloon launches and cross-border transfers of getting information into North Korea, North Korea’s isolation is ending.

Thanks to the women of North Korea, North Korea has a thriving capitalist market system with close to 5,000 markets all around North Korean including micro size local grasshopper markets where North Koreans trade and sell and thus are no longer dependent on the regime for survival.

Thanks to the Trump administration, the U.S. Congress and the U.N. Security Council, the regime is under enormous economic stress through the enhanced sanctions. This stress is what led Kim to the negotiating table in the first place as he no longer has the resources to pay his million man army and rewards his elites to maintain their loyalty.

Right now, Kim is using “The Art of Deception” that was so successfully used by his father and saved Kim Jong II’s regime from collapse: make false promises to give up nukes and get rewarded billions of dollars from South Korea, America and the international community.  Kim Jong Un believese that because it worked beautifully for his father during the Sunshine years, it will work during the Moonshine years for him.

But “The Art of Deception” has now met “The Art of the Deal.”

Thanks to Trump, Kim can no longer use the anti-American propaganda that so successfully helped the regime stay in power and the subjects loyal. Trump has shown them the real America: an earnest sincerity that what Americans want is for North Koreans to thrive and succeed. If Kim does not take the steps he has promised to begin the complete dismantlement of their nuclear program, you can bet that the Trump administration will not be deceived.

With the team of Mike Pompeo, John Kelly and John Bolton, coupled with the fervent prayers of Mike Pence, and the greatest deal maker wielding his best skills in Trump, Kim is in a trap. There are too many North Koreans who desire change to continue to be loyal to this dictatorship if this dictatorship does not also change. The regime can no longer claim they must have nuclear weapons because the Americans want to destroy them when Trump is promising wealth and prosperity and opportunity.

The only choice the elites of North Korea — and the people — have ever had in the past was simple: loyalty to Kim or the worst possible death imaginable.

Trump has shown very clearly there is another way forward. So, Kim either reforms or dies. He either follows through on his promises or his regime ends.

And if Kim does adopt reforms, the wonderful irony is that this guarantees his regime will end.

I am betting “The Art of the Deal” will beat “The Art of Deception.”

Suzanne Scholte, one of the world’s leading North Korea human rights activists, hosted the very first North Korean defectors to ever speak out publicly in the U.S. in 1997 and serves as chair of the North Korea Freedom Coalition and as co-vice chair of the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.