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With Deep Sadness We Mourn the Loss of Hwang Jang Yop

October 11, 2010

Hwang Jang Yop, 87, former secretary of North Korea’s Workers Party, chairman of the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea and adviser to NKnet, passed away at his home on the morning of October 10th. We offer our deepest condolences; may this great pillar of the North Korean democratization movement rest in peace. There is no end to our lamentations, for as much as he yearned for democracy in the North, his lonely end came on this side of our divided land.

Hwang defected in February 1997 at the Korean Consulate General in Beijing in order to tell of the reality in North Korea. He resolved that with the last part of his life he would fight against the absolute dictatorship there. It was a difficult final road that he chose: to push North Korea toward democracy and to work so that the people would be able to live as humans. In the end his defection lit a flare and showed the world the illusion that is North Korea, and kindled the embers of North Korean democratization.

Even though he was past 80 and his bones were old and weak, and even though he was in South Korea, his passion and fight for democracy in the North never waned. Together with so many compatriots from the South he told of the actual situation in the North and carried out his strategy for democratization. The Committee for the Democratization of North Korea established North Korean defector organizations, and so that defectors could spearhead the North Korean democratization movement, he lead the way and urged them on. Also, he made the Democracy Research Institute. He strove to formulate his “Human-Centered Philosophy” and “Strategy for World Democratization,” which he believed to be his greatest achievements. He didn’t stop here; in order to prepare for North Korea’s future he devoted himself to fostering those of younger generations.

For these kinds of activities Hwang faced never-ending threats and assassination plots from the North Korean regime. The North sent all sorts of threatening letters and Reconnaissance Bureau agents as assassins. This was because his work and existence were a threat to the existence of the regime. The regime could not let him be considered a symbol of North Korean democratization movement. Hwang would say, “Well Kim Jong Il doesn’t have anything else to do so he keeps trying,” and “My age is getting up there, should I even pay it attention? And through my being here North Korea’s cruelty is exposed – so maybe it’s a good thing?” He did not end his struggle with the absolute dictatorship. In this manner he always was on the side of the North Korean people and never compromised at all with the North Korean regime.

Hwang Jang Yop’s life has come to an end, but he passed down the task of North Korean democratization and left his legacy of Human-Centered Philosophy as homework to us. We must take his passion and goals and run with them without wavering one bit. To his family and relatives in the North (whom we cannot even know whether they are alive or not) and to the many North Korean people yearning for democracy we express our condolences. Again our deepest sympathy at his passing, and we earnestly await a democratic North so his remains may at last rest in his homeland.

October 10, 2010
The Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights

Related items:
Photos from Hwang Jang Yop’s Funeral

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110-044 4F, Shinguan (New Building), Pilun Building, 214 Pilun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea