Koihime Musou Girls and Korean Patriots, Part VIII: Huang Zhong and Hwang Jang-yop (1923-2010) - The Highest Ranking North Korean Defector before Diplomat Thae Yong-ho


Hwang Jang-yŏp (Hangul/Hanja/Revised Romanization: 황장엽/黃長燁/Hwang Jang-yeop; Born: February 17th 1923 in Kangdong County, Pyongyang, DPRK - Died: October 10th 2010 in Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul Gangnam-gu, ROK) was a North Korean politician who defected to South Korea in 1997, best known for being the highest-ranking North Korean defector before North Korean Vice-Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Thae Yŏng-ho defected in 2017. As the son of Hwang Woo-taek and Lee Deok-hwa, he was largely responsible for crafting Juche, North Korea's official state ideology. He was a member of Je-an Hwang Clan (제안 황씨/齊安黃氏), a clan which is originated from JeAn-ri, Hwangju-eup, Hwangju County, Northern Hwanghae Province, DPRK. For your information, Je-an Hwang Clan is a cadre clan of Changwon Hwang Clan; founded by Hwang Eul-koo (황을구/黃乙耉), 5th Generation-Descendant of Hwang Seok-ki (황석기/黃石奇).

Hwang was born in Kangdong County, Southern Pyongan Province, DPRK (present-day Kangdong County, Pyongyang). He graduated from the Pyongyang Commercial School in 1941, and then went to Tokyo in 1942 to attend Chuo University's law school; however, he quit two years later and returned to Pyongyang, where he taught mathematics at his alma mater. He joined the Workers Party of North Korea in 1946, soon after its founding; from 1949 to 1953, he was sent to study at Moscow University in the Soviet Union, where he met his wife Park Sung-ok. He married with Park Sung-ok and blessed with three daughters (Hwang Seon-hee, Hwang Seon-ok, Hwang No-seon) and a son (Hwang Kyung-mo). Upon his return to North Korea, he became head lecturer in philosophy at Kim Il-sung University. He would later ascend to the presidency of that university in April 1965. In 1972, Hwang became Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly, a position which he would hold for 11 years.

Sometime in the late 1950s, Hwang discovered a 1955 speech in which Kim said, "Juche means Chosun's revolution" (Chosun being the traditional name for Korea, bestowed from Chosun/Joseon Dynasty [1392~1910]). At the time, Kim wanted to develop his own version of Communism, and Hwang was largely responsible for developing what became known as "the Juche Idea." As part of this, he helped scrub all of the paeans to Joseph Stalin that had been typical of Kim's speeches in the 1940s and early 1950s. He also supervised the rewriting of Korean Communist history to make it look like Kim had been the founder and leader of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea from its inception.

In 1983, however, he was removed from the Assembly and his standing deteriorated; though he had been Kim Jong-Il's teacher at Kim Il-sung University, Kim now spoke to him only to criticise him, specifically admonishing him for taking too close an interest in China's capitalist reforms. Remarking on his role as adviser to Kim Jong-Il, Hwang stated: "When I proposed something, he would pretend to listen at first, but in the end, he would never listen."

Hwang defected on the way back from a February 1997 trip to Tokyo by walking into the South Korean embassy in Beijing along with his aide Kim Duk-hong, the president of a North Korean trading firm in Beijing. Pyongyang immediately threatened retaliation, while Beijing police sealed off the South Korean embassy. Three days later, North Korean defector Ri Han-yong, the nephew of Kim Jong-il's mistress Song Hye-rim, was shot outside of his home in Seongnam Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea by unknown assailants widely suspected to be North Korean Special Forces agents; South Korean prime minister Lee Soo-sung described the attack as retaliation for Hwang's defection. A few days later, Kim Jong-il was quoted on Radio Pyongyang as saying, "Cowards, leave if you want to. We will defend the red flag of revolution to the end", a message seen as marking acceptance of Hwang's defection.

Chinese authorities eventually permitted Hwang to depart for South Korea via the Philippines several weeks later. Considering Hwang's prominent role in the North Korean regime, his defection caused a stir, with The Washington Post saying it was as if Joseph Goebbels had defected from Nazi Germany.

Since his defection, Hwang's wife committed suicide and one daughter died under mysterious circumstances by falling off a truck; his other children, a daughter and a son, as well his grandchildren, are thought to have been sent to labour camps. After his arrival in the South, he became a harsh critic of North Korea, publishing over 12 books and treatises, many of which accused Kim Jong-il of "betraying juche and building feudalism instead of socialism", and used his position as chairman of the Unification Policy Research Institute to spread his message. However, under the Sunshine Policy of president Kim Dae-jung, who took office in 1998, Hwang found himself increasingly marginalised; in November 2000, he was removed from the chairmanship of the Unification Policy Research Institute, leading him to complain that the South Korean government wanted him to stay quiet so as not to upset the North. Hwang contributed to the Daily NK, an online newspaper set up by North Korean exiles in South Korea. He described his feelings surrounding the defection in the paper.

In April 2010, the National Intelligence Service announced that it had arrested two North Korean agents who had allegedly been sent to assassinate Hwang. The two agents had reportedly trained for four years in preparation for their mission. They had posed as defectors, but were discovered during questioning by South Korean authorities. They claimed that they would receive assistance from North Korean sympathisers in the South, but refused to give any names when questioned. Hwang commented on the assassination attempt, "Death is just death. There is no difference from dying of old age or being killed by Kim Jong-il." In June 2010, South Korea sentenced the two would-be assassins to 10 years in prison.

Hwang was found dead in his home in Seoul, South Korea, on the morning of October 10th 2010. Initial reports stated that he died of a heart attack. He died while bathing, and as such a large amount of water entered his lungs; however, an autopsy found no poison or drugs in his body, and footage from surveillance cameras showed no signs of forcible entry. On those grounds, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) stated that there was no evidence that his death might be homicide, and that they would close their investigation. On 20 October, just shortly after Hwang's death, the SMPA announced that it had arrested another would-be assassin of Hwang, Ri Dong-sam, who had also entered South Korea posing as a North Korean defector; however, the charges had no connection to Hwang's death. He was buried at Daejeon National Cemetery in Daejeon Yuseong-gu.


Hwang Jang-yop's Bibliography since his defection in 1997
  • I Saw the Truth of the History [Kor: 나는 역사의 진리를 보았다/Naneun Yeoksa-ui Jilli-reul Boatda] (Hanwool Academy Press; 1999)
  • Sunshine Siding with Darkness Cannot Beat Darkness [Kor: 어둠의 편이 된 햇볕은 어둠을 밝힐 수 없다/Eodum-ui Pyeon-i doen Haetbyeot-eul Eodum-eul Bakhil su eopda] (Monthly Chosun/Wolgan Chosun; 2001)
  • World Democratisation and the Last War of Human Beings [Kor: 세계 민주화와 인류의 마지막 전쟁/Segye Minjuhwa-wa Illyu-ui Majimak Jeonjaeng] (The Zeitgeist; 2002)
  • National Life More Precious than Individual’s Life [Kor: 개인의 생명보다 귀중한 민족의 생명/Gaein-ui Saengmyeongboda Gwijunghan Minjok-ui Saengmyeong] (The Zeitgeist; 2002)
  • Several Matters about the Human-centered Philosophy [Kor: 인간중심철학의 몇가지 문제/In-gan Jungsim Cheolhak-ui Myeotgaji Munje] (The Zeitgeist; 2003)
  • Democratic Political Philosophy [Kor: 민주주의 정치철학/Minjujuui Jeongchi-cheolhak] (The Zeitgeist; 2005)
  • The Truth and Deceit of North Korea [Kor: 북한의 진실과 허위/Bukhan-ui Jinsil-gwa Heowi] (The Zeitgeist; 2006)
  • Dialectical Strategy and Tactics Theory [Kor: 변증법적 전략전술론/Byeonjeungbeopjeok Jeollyakjeonsullon] (The Zeitgeist; 2006)
  • Hwang Jang-yop's Memoirs [황장엽 회고록/Hwang Jang-yŏp Hoegorok] (The Zeitgeist; First Edition: 2006, Second Edition [in prior to Hwang's Death]: 2010)
  • Philosophy for Youths [Kor: 청년들을 위한 철학이야기/Cheongnyeondeur-eul Wihan Cheolhak Iyagi] (The Zeitgeist; 2007)
  • Human-centered Philosophy Principles [Kor: 인간중심철학원론/In-gan Jungsim Cheolhak Wollon] (The Zeitgeist; 2008)
  • North Korean Democratisation and Democratic Strategy [Kor: 북한민주화와 민주주의적 전략/Bukhan Minjuhwa-wa Minjujuuijeok Jeollyak] (The Zeitgeist; 2008)
  • Dialectics, Dialectic Strategy and Tactics [Kor: 변증법과 변증법적 전략전술/Byeonjeungbeop-gwa Byeonjeungbeopjeok Jeollyakjeonsul] (The Zeitgeist; 2009)
  • Democracy and Communism [Kor: 민주주의와 공산주의/Minjujuui-wa Gongsanjuui] (The Zeitgeist; 2009)
  • Logic [Kor: 논리학/Nolli-hak] (The Zeitgeist; 2010)
  • Human-centered Philosophy 1 – Outlook on the World [Kor: 인간중심철학 1 - 세계관/In-gan Jungsim Cheolhak 1 - Segye-gwan] (The Zeitgeist; 2010)
  • Human-centered Philosophy 2 – Outlook on History [Kor: 인간중심철학 2 - 사회역사관/In-gan Jungsim Cheolhak 2 - Sahoe Yeoksa-gwan] (The Zeitgeist; 2010)
  • Human-centered Philosophy 3 – Outlook on Life [Kor: 인간중심철학 3 - 인생관/In-gan Jungsim Cheolhak 3 - Insaeng-gwan] (The Zeitgeist; 2010)


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