The North Korean Defector


Defectors have been part of wars worldwide. Sometimes they are used as informants, sometimes they could be used as weapons themselves. A person’s defection could be caused by two factors: pressure or convincing. They might have been pressured to defect, or were convinced to defect.

This story is about a real defector. Hwang Jang-yop, a top North Korean politician defected to South Korea via its embassy in Beijing in 1997. Jang-yop went to law school right after he graduated but quit 2 years later and went on teaching Math at Kim Sung-Il University in Pyongyang where he taught Kim Jong-Il himself. He was appointed Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly and was removed after 11 years in office. Apparently, Kim got mad at him for showing interest in Chinese capitalism and even criticized him face-to-face.

The defection happened on his way back from a trip to Tokyo when he, along with an aide, walked to the South Korean embassy in Beijing (when he was in China). His defection costed him dearly, however, as he left behind his wife, daughters, son and grandchildren. Years after his defection it was found out that his daughter died after falling from a truck and his wife committed suicide after. His other daughter, son and grandchildren were sent to North Korean labor camps due to his defection. Other defectors were also affected by his defection like Kim Jong-Il’s nephew Ri Han-yong and his mistress who were shot by suspected North Korean spies. Also, Kim Jong-Il was quoted as saying in Radio Pyongyang: “Cowards, leave if you want to. We will defend the red flag of revolution to the end”, a message seen as marking acceptance of Hwang’s defection.

Hwang was later allowed to fly back to South Korea via the Philippines. (whoa =O ) Since then, Hwang has been publishing books criticizing Kim Jong-Il accusing him of betraying the Juche Ideology set by his father and soiling the image of Socialism (which is 100% true). He was named Chairman of the Korean Unification Committee but was removed in 2000 after accusing the South of keeping information about the North confidential.

Defections like this is common in North Korea, with an estimated number of about 1,000 North Koreans defecting each year. Most crossing the Chinese border and at risk of being caught by North Korean border guards. Some were lucky enough to cross the DMZ and defected straight into the South. Some prominent individuals entered the South Korean embassy in China (like Mr. Hwang). These people suffer the economic and social difficulties of North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom. Imagine being penalized for listening to Jazz music. But then again, as much as they want to, escaping the North is almost impossible. All those who are caught are either sent to labor camps or killed on the spot, whereas the families left behind by defectors are being enslaved in prison camps and being forced to work in labor camps. Situations like this makes people hate Socialism, misunderstanding it. The most common culprit is Maoism.

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