Washington (CNN)-Ri Jong Ho had simply had enough. He'd seen too many executions.
Ri, a high-profile North Korean defector, spent years working for what is essentially a slush fund for one of the most notorious regimes on the planet, Kim Jong Un and his compatriots.
Life was good. Ri helped bring in somewhere between $50 million and $100 million for North Korean elites, and was handsomely rewarded with luxuries most North Koreans couldn't dream of in years past: a car, a color TV and some extra cash on the side, once rarities in the communist state but more commonplace now in the capital, Pyongyang.
But he watched the regime kill his peers and their families, even children.
"It was not just high level officers, officials, but their families, their children (and) their followers," Ri told CNN in his first interview to a major US broadcast network. "It was not just once or twice a year -- it was ongoing throughout the year, thousands of people being executed or purged."
Ri said the final straw came in late 2013, when Kim Jong Un executed his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, with an anti-aircraft gun.
"It was a cruel and crude method of execution," he said. "After all these years living in the socialist system, I never witnessed anything like that."
Ri was living in China at the time, and in 2014 was able to safely defect with his family.
And just like that, Kim lost one of his top money makers.
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