In an interview with the Chosun Ilbo, Hwang Jang-yop (87), a former secretary of the North Korean Workers' Party and the highest-ranking defector from the communist country, said he was not surprised by the arrest of a two-man assassination squad sent by the North to kill him. "That is all Kim Jong-il can do and he will keep on doing it," Hwang said. "At my age, it doesn't really bother me any more. I am pleased to be able to play a role in exposing the cruelty of North Korea."
Referring to the mysterious sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, Hwang said, "It is clear that Kim Jong-il was behind it. Everyone knows that he has been preparing for this kind of thing." But Hwang advised against a military response, which he called "unnecessary." "If we retaliate and North Korea counters, the Korean Peninsula will end up becoming the scene of a dirty war like Palestine and Israel, where battles have become routine."
An armed confrontation on the Korean Peninsula would lead to an economic meltdown, and the South Korean public would be divided. "That is exactly what Kim Jong-il wants," Hwang said. "He does not have the guts to launch an all-out war and that is why he is resorting to this type of provocation." South Korea "must not fall into that trap."
Hwang said China should be made to participate in the investigation of the Cheonan's sinking to show Beijing the extent of North Korea's actions and give the Chinese government a reason to support or oppose the North. "China and Russia should be made aware of the [Cheonan] disaster so that they understand that our response is justified," he said. "And if Kim Jong-il takes more provocative measures, they must be punished ruthlessly. The regime is oppressive and is always trying to use violence both internally and against other countries. It must be taught a painful lesson."
Hwang said fears that China has territorial ambitions in North Korea should not prevent South Korea from seeking help in dealing with Pyongyang. "The important thing to do is to bring the North Korean dictatorship down," he said. "China must play a role in getting North Korea to open up and pursue reforms. And if the North still refuses to change, then China would have no choice but to abandon it. Change can only come if North Korea feels that pressure.”
"The Republic of Korea lost young soldiers and a Navy ship. It was a big loss," he said. "But South Koreans have become very laid-back in the way they view North Korea. If the disaster teaches them about the true nature of North Korea and Kim Jong-il, then they may be able to gain at least something good from it."
Since being appointed to lead research for North Korea's "Juche" ideology of self reliance in 1954, Hwang was at the center of the North's ideological and political propaganda. He served directly under former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung and incumbent Kim Jong-il for more than 40 years. South Koreans should heed the words of a man who has had so much experience in dealing with North Korea.