Top North Korean official defects
Close aide to Kim Jong Il seeks asylum in South Korea
February 12, 1997
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT)
In this story:
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- A close aide to North Korean
leader Kim Jong Il apparently defected Wednesday, becoming the highest-ranking North Korean official ever to ask South Korea for
Hwang Jang Yop, a secretary of North Korea's powerful
Workers' Party, and an aide have asked for political asylum
at the South Korean embassy in Beijing, said Chung Jong-wook,
South Korea's ambassador to China.
"Since his free will to defect has been confirmed, the issue
will be handled through consultations with the Chinese
government," Chung said.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was
"inconceivable and impossible" that Hwang had asked for
asylum, and said if Hwang was in the South Korean embassy at
Beijing, it meant "that he has been kidnapped by the enemy."
The spokesman threatened "due countermeasures" if Pyongyang
determines that Hwang was kidnapped.
"We are seeking information from the Chinese side through
relevant channels," the spokesman told the North's official
Korean Central News Agency.
China is North Korea's closest ally, and a 1978 treaty
requires it to return to the North any North Koreans found
without valid travel documents.
Emergency Cabinet meeting called
The South Korean Cabinet was holding an emergency meeting to
discuss ways of bringing the two to Seoul. Chang Moon Ik, a
spokesman at the South Korean embassy in the Chinese capital, said Hwang
and the aide were now under the embassy's protection.
The aide was identified as Kim Duk Hung, president of a North
Korean trading company.
Hwang could be an invaluable source of information about the
workings of North Korea's secretive communist government,
which rules one of the world's most closed societies.
Hwang is one of the key architects of North Korea's ideology
of self-reliance. He was in Tokyo attending a North Korean-
sponsored seminar, and was to return to Pyongyang via
Famine, disillusionment behind defection?
Hwang was shown on KBS-TV Tuesday night at Tokyo's Narita
Airport. He had been in Tokyo to promote peace, he said.
The Japanese media speculated that Hwang may have feared a
return to North Korea after failing to secure more pledges of
food aid while in Japan. U.N. officials say that North Korea
faces an imminent famine because two years of flooding have
aggravated a chronic food shortage.
Noriyuki Suzuki of Radiopress, a Japanese service that
monitors North Korea, suggested that Hwang may have been
disillusioned with North Korea's shift from self-reliance to
"blind faith in the great leader."
News of Hwang's defections comes just four days before Kim
Jong Il's 55th birthday. Hwang's wife, two sons and a
daughter remain in North Korea.
Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae and Reuters contributed to this report.
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