Police say Hwang’s death was natural

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Police say Hwang’s death was natural

Seoul police put a close yesterday to any remaining controversy over the death of top North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop.

“The cause of death was acute heart failure,” said Hwang Un-ha of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency while announcing the results of a probe into Hwang’s death.

The investigation was jointly conducted by Seoul police, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and the National Institute of Scientific Investigation.

Security personnel found Hwang dead in a bathtub in his home on Oct.10. The security team had been assigned to provide high-level security for Hwang around the clock.

There had been plots to assassinate Hwang since his defection in 1997.

The final results of the investigation found the time of Hwang’s death to be earlier than what police had originally deduced. Police said that Hwang died of heart failure during his regular afternoon bath at about 3:10 p.m. on Oct. 9, not the next morning.

Hwang also suffered asphyxia from inhaling bathwater.

Police said Hwang’s security team was unaware of his situation on the day of his death because Hwang was protective of his private life, locking himself inside his quarters at his safe house every day after returning home.

“His team was not allowed in unless an emergency alarm button was pushed from inside the room,” said the police.

The former secretary of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, who had been under constant threat from North Korean espionage agents since defecting to the South, had been provided with top security personnel.

But in his final months, Hwang had been extremely weak, needing support just to get in and out of the car.

He had also been taking medications for arrhythmia since May.

The last person Hwang met with on the day of his death was a 62-year-old woman surnamed Kang. Kang had gotten to know Hwang during a lecture in 2005.

Police said that Kang had regularly brought Hwang food. Authorities also denied the two were romantically involved and said they would not be conducting a separate investigation into Hwang’s assets.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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