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Top North Korean defector dies in South Korea

By Kwang-Tae Kim

Associated Press


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party who taught ideology to leader Kim Jong Il but defected to South Korea in 1997, has died. He was 87.

The official said that Hwang had died and that his body was still at his residence. He added that there was no sign of foul play. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Hwang was the chief architect of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance and was one of the country’s most powerful officials when he fled during a visit to Beijing.

He had been close to the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung — the father of current leader Kim Jong Il — and had tutored the younger Kim.

Hwang’s death came as North Korea held a massive military parade Sunday to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party. Kim Jong Il and his son, heir apparent Kim Jong Un, attended the parade broadcast live on North Korean state television.

Since defecting, Hwang lived in Seoul under tight police security amid fears North Korean agents might try to take revenge. He wrote books and delivered speeches condemning Kim’s government as authoritarian.

Hwang’s criticism of the regime he once served earned him the moniker “human scum” in North Korean media reports after his defection, which came on a visit to Beijing.

Two North Korean army majors were sentenced to prison in South Korea in July for plotting to assassinate Hwang. North Korea has denied the plot, accusing South Korea of staging it to intensify anti-Pyongyang sentiment.

Hwang, who seldom gave interviews, shocked the world in 1997 when he and an aide sought refuge in the South Korean Embassy in Beijing while on a visit to the Chinese capital.

At the time, he was a longtime member of the country’s elite, serving as secretary of the party.

After intense negotiations between China and South Korea, Hwang eventually left Beijing for the Philippines, where he stayed briefly before making his way to Seoul.

Hwang was skeptical about international efforts to persuade North Korean to give up its nuclear programs as long as Kim Jong Il remained in power.

“It is nonsense to urge the North to abandon its nuclear weapons with Kim in place,” he told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview in Seoul just days after Pyongyang carried out its first underground atomic test.

Hwang rarely traveled abroad given concerns for his security, though visited the United States in 2003 and Japan earlier this year. He used the opportunities to criticize the North.

“The dictatorship of North Korea is not a problem that is limited to the Korean peninsula, but ... a problem that all the people in the world must deal with,” told AP in an interview in Washington in 2003.

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