Defector in Washington to discuss North KoreaWASHINGTON - The highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect to South Korea arrived here Tuesday to discuss nuclear weapons, human rights and other issues related to the reclusive communist state, sources said.
This is the second visit for Hwang Jang-yop, former secretary of North Korea’s ruling Workers Party, who will meet with scholars, congressional leaders and human-rights activists, according to the sources. He is also expected to visit Tokyo on his way home later this week.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner would not confirm Hwang’s visit, saying, “I’m not aware of that.”
The 87-year-old ideologue, author of North Korea’s juche, or self-reliance ideology, has been under police protection since he defected to the South in a high-profile drama in 1997.
The governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun had banned him from overseas trips out of fear of provoking North Korea, with which they sought improved ties despite Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The exception was in 2003, when Hwang visited Washington to appear at a congressional hearing to denounce North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human-rights conditions. That prompted the North to dismiss him as “human scum.”
The conservative Lee Myung-bak government has said it will allow Hwang to travel abroad freely despite concerns about his safety.
Unlike his predecessors, Lee cut off food and fertilizer aid to North Korea and minimized economic ties, citing a lack of progress in the six-party talks on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
Hwang has called for a tougher policy on North Korea, which he said already developed nuclear weapons in the 1990s.
The six-party talks have been on and off since 2003. Early last year, Pyongyang boycotted the forum over UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang recently called for an end to the sanctions and for peace talks toward a treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Washington insists that Pyongyang come back to the multilateral nuclear talks first.