N.Korea 'Drove Top Scientist to Suicide After Family Reunion'

North Korea's pre-eminent mathematician Cho Ju-kyong reportedly committed suicide a decade ago after severe criticism from authorities for weeping in front of his long-lost mother during a reunion of families separated by the Korean War.

North Korea expert Kim Gwang-in on Tuesday said Cho took an overdose of sleeping pills.

Quoting a colleague, Kim said the mathematician was lambasted when he returned to Pyongyang after family reunions in 2000. At the time, Cho was 68 and met his 88-year-old mother who lived alone in Busan.

A panel of Workers Party officials at Kim Il-sung University apparently harangued Cho, accusing him of forgetting the "favors" he received from the regime and thinking only about his mother, who had "done nothing" for him but give birth.

North Koreas pre-eminent mathematician Cho Ju-kyong meets his mother during family reunions in Seoul in 2000. North Korea's pre-eminent mathematician Cho Ju-kyong meets his mother during family reunions in Seoul in 2000.

Cho apparently became a different person after meeting his mother after a half-century of separation. He avoided others, suggesting that after having been proud of his status as a pre-eminent mathematician in North Korea, he was shocked by the prosperous reality in the South Korean capital, where the reunions took place that year.

He apparently suffered from insomnia and received prescriptions of sleeping pills, which he started stockpiling. He was found dead in his apartment following an apparent overdose.

A North Korean state-run magazine reported his death in July 2004 and printed letters he had written to his mother and family, but claimed he had suffered a heart attack.

In the North, suicide is seen as a grave offense since it rejects the “heaven on earth” created by the regime.

Born in North Gyeongsang Province, Cho was conscripted into the North Korean military in 1950 while studying mathematics at Seoul National University. He lost an arm in the war and went to live in the North, apparently drawn by socialism.

Cho graduated from Kim Il-sung University and wrote 50 books and 80 papers to become one of the most celebrated mathematicians.

His letters show his longing for his mother, who died at the age of 92 the same day the magazine reported her son's death.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 19, 2014 13:14 KST