S.Koreans Must Join the Struggle for Democracy in the North

      October 15, 2010 13:30

      The North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop, who died Sunday aged 87, was laid to rest on Thursday at the Daejeon National Cemetery. Former National Assembly speaker Park Kwan-yong said in his eulogy, "His coming to South Korea itself was the severest blow to North Korea. I will pay my respects to his portrait once again when the ideals of democracy, which he espoused, are firmly anchored in North Korea."

      Until his dying day, Hwang devoted his 13 years in South Korea to promoting democracy in North Korea. His passionate dedication allowed North Korean defectors to see what they needed to do for their people back in the North, and this led to the creation of pro-democracy groups of defectors. Key supporters of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung's "Juche" ideology of self-reliance began to criticize it and joined the movement following Hwang's defection in 1997.

      The Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, which Hwang led, served as an umbrella organization for other defector organizations such as North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, Fighters for Free North Korea, the Association of the North Korean Defectors and the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, which is composed of people who once espoused the "Juche" ideology. Almost all these groups have benefited from Hwang's efforts. Kim Yong-hwan, a researcher for the Network, said, "It will be difficult to find anyone who can replace Hwang, who was at the center of the North Korean pro-democracy movement."

      North Korea, feeling threatened by leaflets floated into the North by these defector groups and broadcasts by Open Radio for North Korea, warned repeatedly that it would not sit back and watch such provocations. That demonstrates just how much fear these pro-democracy movement strikes in the hearts of top North Korean leaders. It was through the efforts of these groups that the outside world learned about the protests among North Koreans to the botched currency reform late last year.

      The North Korean pro-democracy movement justifies and encapsulates the principle of a reunification drive based on the belief that reunification must be prompted by South Korea. Reunification is necessary to free North Koreans from tyranny and oppression, and South Korean democracy needs to serve as a model for the North so that human rights and freedom can be protected there.

      In the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, dissidents like Vaclav Havel and Alexander Solzhenitsyn served as the focal points of pro-democracy groups which ensured that the ouster of communist regimes and the establishment of democracy took place with relatively little bloodshed. The pro-democracy movement is a form of contingency plan in case of a sudden change of events in North Korea.

      For now, the pro-democracy movement is led by defector groups. But if that movement is to gain a wider support base, they must hone their goals, agenda and methods, and the South Korean government and public must take part in the movement and offer their assistance in mapping future goals and means of support.

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