Hwang Jang-yŏp's Choice
"A family photo of former North Korean Workers Party secretary Hwang Jang-yop who died on Sunday," above, from an article detailing what happened after his defection to the South — Hwang Jang-yop's Wife, Son 'Killed Themselves in N.Korea' The article informs us that he "left one son and three daughters behind in the North. It seems his wife killed herself after he fled the North and his third daughter became crippled when she jumped out of a truck that was taking her to a concentration camp. It's not known what became of her."
As one of his country's top-ranking officials, surely he was aware of the fate that would befall his family should he defect. Perhaps he was aware that he was to be purged, along with his family, and, their fate already sealed, decided to escape and work to free his homeland.
A letter to his wife "contains his feelings and sense of remorse that he could not avoid defecting; he even begs his doomed wife's forgiveness for deserting his family" — Hwang's "Will," Written in Beijing. Here it is in toto:
- My dear Comrade Park Seung Ok,
Now that I am here after leaving and deceiving you, I have realized again how much I love you and how strongly my soul is bound to yours. Even a blunt person like me feels like going insane when your worried image comes to mind.
Whenever I think of Ji Hyeon, who protested against me by lying down in the hall after I scolded her to maintain her own autonomy, and young Ji Seong, who would always bring me his toys to win my favor, I can feel my heart breaking.
The fact that you and my loving children will all die in the cruellest persecution just because of me makes me painfully aware of how serious my sins are. I have betrayed the love of my adorable children, grandchildren and you. I am not asking you for forgiveness; I hope you will curse me most severely and cruelly.
I have betrayed all the closest people who believed in and had hopes and expectations vested in me. I think it is absolutely natural for them to criticize. I am disqualified from asking you and them for forgiveness. It’s only my heart that aches.
I believe that I am not eligible to live on, and that my life is finished with this. How good it would be if there were a heaven up above. I want to see you once again, there in heaven.
If the Chosun Workers’ Party officially proclaimed that it would give up its current abnormal system and instead accept a reform and openness policy and aim at peaceful reunification, I would go back to Pyongyang and die in your arms, surrounded by my family.
I don’t know how much longer my life will go on, trying to harbor my broken heart after a life-long separation from the people I love. However, I swear I will dedicate the rest of my life to my nation and people. Please note that my faith has not changed; a family’s life is more precious than that of an individual. A nation’s life is more precious than that of a family. The human race’s life is more precious than that of a nation.
My dear comrade Park Seung Ok!
I don’t know if you will ever receive this letter, but I’m writing it as my last will because I might kill myself at any time.
Hwang Jang Yop
South Korean Embassy, Beijing
February 17, 1997