An 88-year old former, major North Korean politician Hwang Jang Yop who defected to South Korea in 1997 died today. Hwang was found dead in his home bathroom by authorities who declared he died because of a heart attack. His supporters in South Korea couldn’t believe it.
Mr. Young Bok Kim who works at a grocery store in Seoul mournfully stated, “He was like a lit candle to North Koreans who escaped the country like me.” Mr. Kim continued on to say, “I really worry now that since he’s [Hwang] gone, no one will be around to help us as he did…he was considered as a possible future leader of North Korea..I was truly torn up when I heard he left us.”
Hwang was the highest-ranking defector from North Korea. He was one of the elite staff who studied in Moscow University. Formerly the Secretary and Chief of Intelligence of the North Korean Workers’ Party Hwang was mostly renowned for being the mastermind of the idea Juche. Juche is the ongoing official political idealogy of North Korea used by Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il to strengthen their political power. The literal translation of ‘Juche’ is ‘self-reliance’ which the Stalinist North Korea took to heart for the past half-century.
Hwang took offense when North Korean officials forced civilians including Hwang himself to memorize paragraphs from the book of Juche. After watching the policies of Kim Jung Il miserably fail, Hwang fled to South Korea in 1997 when a terrible famine struck the North. Hwang’s defection reportedly shocked and humiliated Kim Jong Il who had deep respect for Hwang as a former teacher and aide.
Kim Jong Il sent numerous hitmen to kill Hwang after the former Secretary’s defection. The last hit man sent by the North Korean government was captured this May. Hwang Jang Yop suggested many ideas and policies to the South Korean government after his defection, however former South Korean President and Nobel laureate Kim Dae Joong completely ignored Hwang.
Hwang left his family in North Korea during his escape. According to a North Korean officer who later defected to South Korea, Hwang’s son Kyung Mo was sent to the concentration camp to be “re-educated”. Later, word of Kyung Mo’s survival arose which was probably due to his connection with Chang Sung Taek, an influential power and brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il’s nephew.
There is currently some suspicion in South Korea surrounding Hwang Jang Yop’s death seeing as how today is the 65th anniversary of the North Korean communist party.