How To Deal With Kim

In 1997, Hwang Jang Yop, former secretary of North Korea's Workers' Party, startled the world by becoming the highest-ranking official ever to defect from the Hermit Kingdom. The architect of North Korea's ideology of juche, or self-reliance, Hwang was once a close aide to the late Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. Six years since his defection to the South, he may visit the United States for the first time this fall to testify before Congress. His counsel may be especially valuable now. Last week Washington and Pyongyang announced that they had agreed to hold six-way talks--China, Japan, Russia and South Korea will also be included--over the nuclear standoff. In an exclusive interview Hwang met with NEWSWEEK's Hideko Takayama in Seoul to discuss the tensions with Pyongyang. Excerpts:

Can North Korea be persuaded to give up its nuclear program?

The present Sino-American relationship doesn't seem to me to be firm enough. Their ties need to be strong enough to pull China away from its past relationship with North Korea. It's also important to make Kim understand just how the United States views Pyongyang. For that, a couple of announcements by President Bush and Beijing visits by the secretary of State are not enough. It's important to show Pyongyang the kind of determination that the United States has shown with the Iraq war.

Is it possible to remove the present regime without using force?

Yes. If China can persuade North Korea to accept Chinese-style reforms, the North Korea problem will be solved. If the United States and China are united strongly, Japan and South Korea will follow, and so will Russia. Pyongyang will have no other choice. You have to understand that the Chinese reform policy does not allow the existence of a "Great Leader" dictatorship. That explains why Kim Jong Il never had a high regard for the Chinese policy and used to dismiss Deng Xiaoping as a revisionist.

Can defectors and the human-rights issue play a more powerful role in resolving the Kim problem?

Absolutely. Have you ever read "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, the Chinese warrior-philosopher? It says, "The superior militarist foils enemies' plots; next best is to ruin their alliance; next after that is to attack their armed forces." I would add a few words before the last option: "Destroy the enemy's spirit with a great cause." North Korea's human-rights and refugees issue can be a much more effective weapon to remove the regime. Its importance is incalculable. Did the old Soviet Union collapse because of the nuclear issue? No, it was the people who finally did it in.

What should the United States and other countries do?

If the United States accepts 10,000, 20,000, up to 30,000 North Korean defectors, that will deal a fatal blow to Kim's regime. Why? In such a closed country under such a strict dictatorship, you should assume that for each defector there are 100 more North Koreans who think the same way. If the world expresses its willingness to accept them and the word gets around in the North, then it will awaken them and more of them will defect. If China is pulled away from North Korea and allows the United States and regional powers to set up a huge refugee camp in northeast China, that can be a strategic base for democratizing the North.

But are there people in the North who could take over from Kim?

Yes, there are, but I cannot talk about them now. If I did, it could create a big problem for them.

Do you think there have been changes in the mind of Kim Jong Il as the world has focused on the abuses of his regime?

I think he is determined to be a dictator with absolute power. Pyongyang hasn't given up its two major policy options regarding the South--to reunify the peninsula by force or foment division within South Korea so a pro-North government can be established there. Kim Jong Il does not have any vision for the future of his people or mankind. As a politician, his grade is not even a zero. It's minus zero. But as a dictator, he is not so inferior. He has a superb ability to judge what's in his interest and manipulate situations in that direction.

Are you worried that war may break out on the peninsula?

There is still a possibility, but Kim Jong Il won't be able to wage war now. He knows that it would mean the end of his regime.

What do you consider to be your remaining mission as a defector in the South?

I am very old, so I want to have younger people take over my task. Also, I am very concerned about the current situation in South Korea. There are so many people here who don't seem to understand the value of democracy. North Korea and South Korea were liberated on the same day when World War II ended. The North became a living hell, but the South became a developed country thanks to the democracy that was introduced by the United States. South Koreans need to know that the North Korean dictatorship is a real threat to their democracy.

How To Deal With Kim | News