[OUTLOOK]A German Academic or Politburo Man?

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[OUTLOOK]A German Academic or Politburo Man?

Is time more powerful than atomic bombs? Fifty years after the bomb fell, Hiroshima is covered with grass and trees. I attended the second World Forum on Koreans there last week, and was sitting on the platform as a member of a forum when a person waved at me from the seats for audience. It was Song Du-yul, a professor of philosophy at Muenster University in Germany. It had been 25 years since I met him last at a seminar for Korean students in Germany. Then we denounced together the Yushin system, Park Chong Hee's martial rule system. Now Mr. Song is suspected of being Kim Chol-su, an alternate member of the Politburo of North Korea's Workers' Party. I shook hands with him, leaving verification of "the suspicion" to time, just as time eventually overcame the radioactivity from the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

I was more interested in questioning him than happy to see him; such an attitude reminded me that I have been working for a newspaper for a while. Those who doubted that Mr. Song could really be a North Korean official were shaken after Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to South Korea, identified him as a North Korean politburo member. When I reminded him of that remark, he said that he has already submitted various materials refuting Mr. Hwang's words to a Korean court.

According to him, contrary to Mr. Hwang's assertion that he was the only overseas Korean scholar who attended the funeral of Kim Il-sung, and that this was "in the realm of public knowledge and historical fact," there are pictures of other Korean scholars overseas who attended the funeral in the Choson yearbook of North Korea.

Mr. Song told me he has never received any suggestion or notice that he would become a politburo member of the North Korean Workers' Party. I suggested to him the possibility that such thing could be pursued secretly. He retorted, "Don't you know how important a member of politburo in a socialist country is? If I am really a member of the politburo, why do I have to wait for two weeks after applying for a North Korean visa in Beijing or Berlin?"

Then why has Mr. Hwang made such assertions? Mr. Song wondered about that too, saying he met Mr. Hwang only twice. I pushed him a bit to guess why Mr. Hwang would try to harm him.

First of all, he cited his solo meeting with Kim Il-sung which lasted for four hours. The discussion he had with Kim Il-sung was mainly about why East Germany collapsed, and President Kim wanted him to teach North Korea about capitalism. According to Mr. Song, Mr. Hwang could be upset about such extraordinary treatment by President Kim, since Mr. Hwang also studied philosophy like Mr. Song. He also speculated that he might have become a victim of Mr. Hwang's need to redeem his credibility. Right after he defected to South Korea in 1997, Mr. Hwang said many thousands of important South Koreans had secretly helped North Korea as spies. That "list," Mr. Song said, contained almost nothing.

I didn't have any clue to prompt him toward further guesses. He told me that he doubts whether Mr. Hwang really got a call from Kim Yong-sun, secretary of the Workers' Party, about him. He told me he can not help but laugh at Mr. Hwang's assertion that Mr. Song "liquidated the relics of capitalism and understood Juche philosophy correctly" only after Mr. Hwang taught him.

The current National Intelligence Service is not like its predecessors, which would have manufactured spies by using threats and torture. Then why is it saying it is certain that Kim Chol-su is Song Du-yul? Mr. Song told me that he was told that there are four persons believed to be Kim Chol-su. To support his story, he cited a discussion he had with a high ranking NIS official and said, "Even the National Intelligence Service seems to be confused about it." He said things surrounding him could be more easily wrapped up if "the National Intelligence Service provides its own evidence, not through Mr. Hwang."

For the past two years and eight months he has been waiting for the results of the first court case he filed against Mr. Hwang. He is relying on German lawyers who have assured him of winning the case, since the system of law on which they are basing his defense is also honored in South Korea.

Mr. Song is working on a symposium commemorating the first anniversary of the June 15 North-South Korean Summit. However, he hasn't heard anything from North Korea, let alone received any cooperation from South Korea. He smiled bitterly, "If I were a member of politburo at this time...." When I asked, "Why don't you sign a document pledging to abide by the Korean constitution and come to Seoul?" He said that he would sign it right away if no strings were attached. But if they use it as if he said he regrets what he has done and he is happy to be embraced by his country again, it would negate the whole of his life, he added.

I acknowledge this story is one-sided. I would like to have the same opportunity to talk with Hwang Jang-yop.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Joseph W. Chung

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