YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A former inmate at a North Korean labor camp said Tuesday that Kim Jong Il’s “medieval regime” is on the verge of collapse but that aid from South Korea is helping the communist dictator control his army and the population.

Speaking through a translator, Kang Chol-hwan, author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag,” told members of the Armed Forces Spouses Club that the U.S. military presence in South Korea had kept North Korea from invading the country.

But South Korea could force Kim to open the country by placing conditions on its aid to North Korea and not letting food aid go to his military.

“Once the military members are hungry, that will set up the groundwork for a coup d’etat,” Kang said.

Kang said Kim fears his regime will collapse because he has fewer ways to control his people, and support for his ideologies is eroding in the wake of famines that have left millions hungry or dead.

“The 23 million people in North Korea will never forgive Kim Jong Il and [former dictator] Kim Il Sung,” he said.

Kang said former spies who defected from North Korea have said thousands of intelligence personnel were planted at South Korean universities to incite anti-U.S. and anti-South Korean feeling, and it’s working.

During a speaking tour at 10 U.S. colleges, including Yale, Harvard and University of California, Berkeley, Kang was troubled by the most frequent question from students: Why do you think there’s so much anti-U.S. rhetoric in Korea?

Kang also said there are 300,000 North Korean defectors in China, and the United States should help them. “It is my personal belief that defectors are the start of the collapse,” he said. “I believe that is the Achilles’ heel of the North Korean regime.”

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