When he was a teenager in Pyongyang, Thae Yong-ho knew there was something not quite right in North Korea, a country he had always been taught was a socialist paradise the rest of the world envied.
A child of the country's elite, he was given privileged access to carefully selected British and American books and films, such as The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, to hone his English skills.
It was then that he discovered the existence of bacon, news.com.au reports.
"We studied BBC English textbooks and I learned about the British breakfast. It seemed very luxurious to have bacon, cheese, bread and butter for breakfast," Mr Thae said.
"It was shocking to me. I only had rice and soup; not the capitalist English breakfast. I didn't even know what bacon and cheese were."
Mr Thae will visit Australia next week to have talks with officials in Canberra and attend the Antidote ideas festival at the Sydney Opera House. He said it had always been his "dream" to visit.
But if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had his way, his former deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom wouldn't be swanning about in Australia at all. He, his wife and two sons would be doing backbreaking work in a field far from Pyongyang. Or, more likely, they'd be dead.
That's because Mr Thae is one of the most high-profile North Koreans ever to have defected. In the northern summer of 2016, he and his family vanished from the country's modest embassy in London later to re-emerge in Seoul, capital of South Korea.
Mr Thae told news.com.au of the absurd lies his family had to concoct to pretend they hated the West and of the one "stupid" decision made in Pyongyang involving 12 waitresses that in inadvertently led him to flee the authoritarian regime.
He also has a message for the Australian Government: It's mere "wishful thinking" to believe Mr Kim will ever give up his nuclear arsenal.
"The life for ordinary people in North Korea was really difficult and miserable, but the life we enjoyed was different to ordinary people," Mr Thae said of his upbringing.
"My family were in the privileged class, so we led a better life. In Pyongyang we had a big apartment of almost 130 square metres (about the size of an average flat in Australia), we went to good schools, we did not lack money."
He was proud of his country: "I did not want to leave my motherland, I was very loyal and a true believer of the ideology that human equality can only be reached by communist ideals."
Mr Thae was groomed to be a diplomat, however, and was sent to Denmark and Sweden before the UK.
He had many duties. At one point in London, he took Mr Kim's brother Kim Jong-chul, a fan of Eric Clapton, to one of the musician's concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.
"Kim Jong-chul is almost professional guitarist," Mr Thae remarked.
Mr Thae, meanwhile, had become a keen member of his local west London tennis club.
"My family always accompanied me so we lived in two systems, one democratic and one totalitarian. In Britain, my sons had a free education and back in North Korea they had a brainwashed education."
Any hint the family might prefer their overseas sojourns had to be suppressed.
"Every family member is in fear of being punished because of the prison camps. If you challenge the system, you will be the subject of instant arrest. You have to pretend to be loyal to the society and leader; most people in North Korea are pretending."
This went to bizarre lengths when his sons told him school friends were pestering them for information about London.
"They couldn't tell them about the internet, Facebook or Twitter or how they emailed their homework to their teacher or how people took summer vacations. If they did, there would be instant punishment and we'd be sent to the countryside to work like other normal families," Mr Thae said.
"I told them to say London was like the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, which people in North Korea can read.
"So they said London was full of orphans and beggars, that there was no welfare, no money, that people couldn't go to school and it was a primitive capitalist society."
12 WAITRESSES LED TO DEFECTION
Mr Thae said a decision made by the leadership in 2016 was the catalyst for him fleeing. In April of that year, 12 North Korean waitresses from a well-known restaurant run by the regime in China defected, en masse.
Never before had such high profile — and so many — North Koreans fled at once.
Pyongyang was furious and demanded all the country's young people studying overseas return immediately to North Korea to minimise future defection risks.
That order also included Mr Thae's sons in Britain.
"I said to (Pyongyang), it's a really stupid decision. Can my son not finish his education in a couple of months before he returns?
"I pleaded. If North Korea does not look after the education of my son, what's the merit of being loyal to my leader?
"Everyone is the owner of their destiny, but in North Korea — no — your destiny is decided by the leader.
"We lived this double life in two systems, between totalitarianism and freedom. And my family said we cannot do the double life, so we decided to say goodbye to one of the systems."
One August day, the four of them vanished from the embassy and from London.
"I was scared. I was worried that if my plan was discovered the North Korean system would stop it."
Mr Thae won't talk about the nuts and bolts of how his family escaped due to his seniority that could create "some diplomatic problems".
He remembers his time back in North Korea when, between jaunts abroad, he was a trusted member of the Kim entourage.
"I had photos with (former leader) Kim Il-sung. In 2001 when the Swedish prime minister visited North Korea I was one of the interpreters, so I was only two metres away when Kim Il-sung spoke. And I was in the very near distance to Kim Jong-un."
KIM JONG-UN IS THE TRAITOR
But there is no love lost now for the Kims, who he accuses of betraying a basic tenant of communism by handing power down through the family in a hereditary, monarch-like system.
"North Korea thinks I am a traitor but the Kim family is the traitor of true communist and socialist ideology," Mr Thae said.
Not that he's a particular fan of that anymore either, saying the "capitalist welfare system" he saw in the west was far better than the North Korean system.
"So to keep that system (in North Korea), they have to have merciless policies of terror and violence," Mr Thae said.
Like many defectors, Mr Thae now lives in Seoul. Just 50km from the North Korean border, it's a city with no shortage of bacon and cheese. He can have them for breakfast every day.
He's now a popular author, with his book on the inner workings of the regime, Cryptography From the Third-Floor Secretariat, a bestseller in South Korea.
Next week he heads to Australia. "It's one of the only English-speaking countries in Asia so very important, and as an English learner, one of my childhood dreams was to visit."
His message will be blunt though — Mr Kim will not change his ways.
"The Australians must be very forceful with Kim Jong-un. He says he will abandon his nuclear weapons but it's wishful thinking. He will not denuclearise and Australia should not underrate the real character of Kim Jong-un.
"Australia needs to work together with its allies to prevent possible nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and should enhance economic sanctions so the Kim Jong-un system is not sustainable."
Looking back, escaping is bittersweet. Mr Thae left much behind including family members. And he fears his fellow staff at the London embassy may have borne the brunt of his defection.
"I feel very sorry for what I did to my colleagues when I left. I couldn't tell my best friend, and my ambassador was sent back to North Korea. Everyone (in the embassy) was sent back. I have heard nothing about them.
"I ask Kim Jong-un for mercy, to not give my colleagues punishment because my defection had nothing to do with them."