Controversy fills president’s speech
In his speech on Oct. 31 at Kim Il Sung University, Elbegdorj emphasized the importance of human rights, freedom and Mongolia’s status as a nuclear-free nation.
A number of high-ranking North Korean officials attended the event.
“Mongolia is a country that respects human rights and freedoms, upholds the rule of law and pursues open policies,” he said, according to the English-language statement posted on the president’s official website. “Mongolia holds dear fundamental human rights - freedom of expression, the right to assembly and the right to live by his or her own choices.
“No tyranny lasts forever,” he continued. “It is the desire of the people to live free that is the eternal power.”
Elbegdorj emphasized those values, referencing the glory days of the Mongol Empire.
“The Great Mongol Empire respected its people’s freedom of faith and freedom to create,” he said. “The Empire had very active policies with Asia, Europe and the Middle East. I also want to add that the Great Mongol Empire never waged wars without a justifiable reason.”
He also touched upon capital punishment and nuclear disarmament, sensitive issues to North Korea.
“Since 2009, Mongolia has fully banned capital punishment,” he said.
“Twenty-one years ago, Mongolia declared herself a nuclear-weapon-free zone,” Elbegdorj continued. “The five permanent member states of the UN Security Council have confirmed Mongolia’s status in writing. Mongolia prefers ensuring her security by political, diplomatic and economic means.”
The Mongolian president’s website said in a note that the topic of the lecture was proposed by the North. Elbegdorj was “advised” not to use the words “democracy” or “market economy” in his speech, it added.
This makes him the first head of state to make a speech in North Korea discussing issues of such a sensitive nature, the website said.
After his speech, the audience responded with “a lengthy applause.”
Elbegdorj visited Pyongyang on Oct. 28 for a four-day trip, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.
Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not meet with him.
North Korean media outlets reported the speech at the university but have not yet mentioned its contents.
“I don’t think we can say that Kim Jong-un did not meet with him because of the speech,” a Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Rather, the Mongolian president could have said those things in a fit of pique because a summit with Kim Jong-un was not held.”
“Sources say there was no breakthrough in relations between the two countries when the Mongolian president visited North Korea,” a South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs added. “So that’s the reason why Kim Jong-un did not meet with him - not because of the speech.”
BY KIM HEE-JIN [email@example.com]
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