[EDITORIALS]Protect Hwang Jang-yopPrinted matter threatening the life of Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, has been found; the culprit is still at large. Some North Korean defectors’ groups said, “This is a dirty operational activity of Kim Jong-il’s followers who are trying to obstruct the democratization of North Korea.” They demanded that Seoul investigate the incident thoroughly.
It is highly likely that the material was distributed by those who dislike what Mr. Hwang has said and done. He claimed that except for humanitarian aid, Seoul should not provide other economic aid to North Korea and that China should move away from the North. Such statements might have angered those who instigated the incident.
If North Korea is linked to the incident, Seoul must ask it to call those responsible to account and lodge a strong protest. It must warn the North that such a threat will obstruct otherwise smooth sailing in South-North relations. If a group in the South is involved, its purpose and relationship with the North must be clarified.
It will not be a simple matter if the North is connected to this incident. In 1997, Lee Han-young, a nephew of Kim Jong-il’s former wife Sung Hae-rim, who defected to the South, was killed by an unidentified gunman. There was speculation that the act was committed by a North Korean agent, but the culprit was not caught. The recurrence of a similar incident means that there are weak points in our security system, especially against North Korean agents. Government agencies, including the National Intelligence Service, must launch a thorough investigation.
The threat on Mr. Hwang’s life is a threat on our people’s lives. It is our duty to protect Mr. Hwang, who came to the South in search of freedom. If we neglect our responsibility, who would defect to the South? Promoting exchange and cooperation with the North is one thing, and keeping a strong security system is another. The incident should not create another conflict in our society, which already experiences confusion over North Korea policy.
Authorities must resolve the issue as soon as possible, considering the sensitive nature of the case. At the same time, they should do their best to maintain the security of important North Korean defectors.