Kim Jong-il 'Has Secret Underground Escape Route'

Hwang Jang-Yop Hwang Jang-Yop

Kim Jong-il has a network of secret tunnels as an escape route in case of emergency, according to a prominent defector. Hwang Jang-Yop (86), a former secretary of the North Korean Workers Party, on Sunday told the Seoul-based Free North Korea Radio run by a group of defectors, "About 300 m below ground in Pyongyang, there exists a second underground world which is different from the subway level."

The tunnels stretch for some 40 to 50 km around Pyongyang linking to Nampo and Sunchon, Hwang said.

"The chief security guard for the subway construction site came and invited me to the site, asking me to mediate in a scuffle between soldiers and college students," Hwang said. "After I went down into the subway, I found another tunnel further down below." He said there are countless such secret tunnels and underground facilities in Pyongyang. Hwang is a former president of Kim Il Sung University.

He said there are clean spring water and green grass in one tunnel that leads to Mt. Jamo in Sunchon, about 40 km from Pyongyang. Another tunnel extends to Yongwon near Mt. Myohyang, about 50 km from Pyongyang.

Yet another links the Mt. Cholbong recreation center in Samsok District in Pyongyang to the port of Nampo, which would allow leaders to escape to China in an emergency, he said.

"North Korea started building the tunnels right after the armistice" that halted the Korean War, Hwang said. "They were so elaborately built that a visiting Soviet military delegation marveled at them."

Pyongyang also has a straightforward subway 100-150 m-deep that opened in 1973. It is touted to foreign visitors as a tourist attraction but could be converted into a huge underground bunker in time of war.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 09, 2009 09:03 KST