[EDITORIALS]Go Slow in Defection Case

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[EDITORIALS]Go Slow in Defection Case

As the human rights situation in North Korea attracts the world's attention following the defection of Jang Gil-suh and his relatives, we are worried that the visit to the United States of Hwang Jang-yop, another North Korean defector, would turn into a diplomatic problem between Seoul and Washington. Mr. Hwang is a former secretary of the Workers' Party of the North. Although the matters related to Mr. Hwang's testimony on North Korea before the U.S. Congress is an uncomfortable issue for our government, we think that the opinions of those who invited him and of Mr. Hwang should first of all be respected.

The government is doing its best to bring Chairman Kim Jong-il to Seoul, and it could be worried about possible backlash from Mr. Hwang's testimony. There could be fears that Mr. Hwang would reveal the human rights situation in the North and criticize Chairman Kim's leadership and qualifications and the North Korean system as a whole. Also, Mr. Hwang's testimony might not be helpful for our government to proceed with its "sunshine policy," since it will likely cause negative influence not only on U.S. congressmen but also on the conservative Republican government, which is skeptical of North Korea. The government, at the National Security Council meeting on Wednesday, decided not to allow Mr. Hwang's visit pending an overall agreement on Mr. Hwang's safety arrangements between the governments of South Korea and the United States.

However, we have a problem with the government's attitude in dealing with the issue. The National Intelligence Service degraded the invitations to Mr. Hwang as if they are on individual basis. But, the invitation from Henry Hyde, chairman of the U.S. House's International Relations Committee, is being interpreted as a Congress-level invitation that promises the cooperation of protecting Mr. Hwang's safety and the testimony before Congress. If our government continues to call for guaranteeing Mr. Hwang's safety and an official invitation, the United States could doubt the intentions behind our government's actions. And this could cause a serious crack in the relationship between the two countries.
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