North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

HJY Passes Away, Final Thoughts on Jong Un

Hwang Jang Yop, the former CC KWP Secretary of Ideology who fled to the ROK in 1997, passed away on 10 October (Sunday).  Prior to his death, Hwang offered his thoughts about hereditary succession to  Dong-a Ilbo :

In an Oct. 1 interview, Hwang said Kim will be commended if he achieves denuclearization, reform and opening of the communist country, but will face criticism if he fails.

Hwang expressed reservations about judging the North’s successor, saying, “It’s too early to make judgments about him. He recently began appearing in public so we need time before making judgments.”

“Whoever the successor is — Kim Jong Un or others — will make no difference unless the core problem of the North (totalitarian rule) is resolved.”

Hwang’s comment is in contrast to what he said after he fled the North in 1997. At the time, he blasted the North’s leader Kim Jong Il and the communist regime. When Hwang visited the U.S. in March, he downplayed Kim Jong Un’s ability by saying, “What good will it do to know about him?”

Considering Hwang’s change of opinion on Kim Jong Un, who has begun public activity as the heir apparent, Hwang might have had a bit of hope for change in the North.

Hwang spoke to a Dong-A reporter for 30 minutes on Oct. 1 at Hwang’s office in Seoul’s southern Gangnam district. This was Hwang’s tenth interview with Dong-A since he visited the daily’s headquarters on July 21 last year.

Hwang refrained from commenting on Kim Jong Un, saying, “I will soon express my official opinion on him.”

Chosun Ilbo writes on Hwang’s personal history:

Born in South Pyongan Province in 1923, Hwang attended Pyongyang Commercial School in 1941 and went to Tokyo in 1942 to attend Chuo University law school. After Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II, he returned to Pyongyang and joined the Workers Party in 1946. In 1954, after further studies at Moscow University, he became head of the school of philosophy at the prestigious Kim Il-sung University. In January 1958, Hwang was appointed ideological secretary under then leader Kim Il-sung and began to craft the Juche ideology, which became Kim’s own brand of communism.

He became president of Kim Il-sung University in 1965, a post he held for 14 years, and as the head of the Juche Ideology Research Center from 1979 until his defection was North Korea’s foremost expert in the doctrine. In the early 1960s, Hwang taught Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il.

Kim Il-sung and his son adored Hwang, who was more a scholar than a politician. But Hwang found himself unable to keep serving Kim Jong-il, whom he saw as intent solely on maintaining his grip on power even as millions of North Koreans starved to death in the mid 1990s, while Hwang’s idea of Juche placed the North Korean people above all else. “What kind of socialism lets its people starve to death?” he said when he defected to South Korea in 1997.

In private, Hwang yearned for his wife, son and three daughters and was gripped by intense guilt for leaving them behind in North Korea. A close aide to Hwang said his supporters are planning to ask North Korean authorities to allow Hwang’s family to pay their last respects to him in South Korea on humanitarian grounds.” Some of Hwang’s family members apparently died while others were sent to political prison camps.


Kim Young-sam, a former president of South Korea, pays silent tribute to the deceased Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party and the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to South Korea, at a Seoul hospital on Oct. 12. Hwang died of a suspected heart attack at his residence in Seoul on Oct. 10. He was the author of the North's "juche," or self-reliance, ideology and a tutor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. He defected to Seoul in 1997. (Yonhap)


This article was written on 12 Oct 2010, and is filled under DPRK External Relations, Inter-Korean Relations, Kim Jong-il, Korean Workers' Party (KWP), other topics.

An affiliate of 38 North