Mongolian President Stuns N.Koreans with Freedom Call

Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj last month stunned North Korean elite students at Kim Il-sung University by telling them, "No tyranny lasts forever."

According to a transcript of the speech posted on the Mongolian presidential website on Friday, Elbegdorj told the students during his visit to Pyongyang, "It is the desire of the people to live free that is the eternal power."

Contrary to expectations, Elbegdorj did not meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his trip, and the publication of the speech prompts speculation that his remarks sent Kim into a sulk.

This screen capture from North Korean Central TV shows Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj shakes hands with Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of the Supreme Peoples Assembly, at an airport in Pyongyang on Oct. 28. This screen capture from North Korean Central TV shows Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj shakes hands with Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, at an airport in Pyongyang on Oct. 28.

"Freedom enables every human to discover and realize his or her opportunities and chances for development. This leads a human society to progress and prosperity." Elbegdorj told the students, "Mongolia holds dear the fundamental human rights -- freedom of expression, right to assembly and the right to live by his or her own choice… Mongols say, 'better to live by your own choice however bitter it is, than to live by other’s choice, however sweet.'"

He also hinted that the North Korean regime should abandon its nuclear ambitions. "Twenty-one years ago, Mongolia declared herself a nuclear-weapon-free zone," he said. "The five permanent member states of the UN Security Council have confirmed Mongolia's status in writing."

He also pointed out that Mongolia scrapped capital punishment in 2009. North Korea still holds public executions.

The Mongolian presidential office said Elbegdorj offered to take questions after his speech but none were asked, although he received "lengthy applause." North Korea gave him a topic for the speech: Mongolia’s foreign policy and relations between Mongolia and North Korea but asked him not to use the words "democracy" or "market economy," it added.

Elbegdorj is a former journalist who founded Mongolia's top privately-owned newspaper, Ardchilal, in 1990. That same year he played a pivotal role in democratic protests ending communist rule in his country. He became a lawmaker and, in May 2009, Mongolia's fifth president.

He visited North Korea from Oct. 28 and 31, but hopes that he would be the first foreign leader to meet Kim were scuppered.

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 18, 2013 12:42 KST