Hwang Jang Yop Calls for Ideological Warfare Against Kim Jong Il

I was too busy to see Hwang Jang Yop speak in D.C. the other day, but a few news services picked up his remarks:

North Korea’s highest-ranking defector said “ideological warfare,” not military action, would help topple the regime of Kim Jong Il.

“We don’t need to resort to force,” Hwang Jang-yop told a small audience Wednesday at the Center for Strategic International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “We need to use ideology and markets and diplomacy. We need to take a lesson from the cold war.” [….]

“Simply trying to make Kim Jong Il die would not be the solution,” he said. “The solution is ideological warfare. We need to focus on the people of North Korea and alert them to the human rights abuses that are taking place.” [CNN]

I agree with Hwang’s message about ideological subversion and believe that most North Koreans are ready to be subverted. I’m not sure, however, that I’d want Hwang, who still professes belief in the “misunderstood” juche ideology, to be the messenger or the author of the message. I’m deeply ambivalent about Hwang. North Korea’s Inner Party is the sort of place where you don’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Like Rudolf Hess before him, his defection doesn’t exactly absolve him of his responsibility for helping to create a tyrannical system, and like Hess, he hasn’t necessarily rejected the ideology on which the system is built. Still, his defection has value for what it tells us about that system and its weaknesses, and for what it has done to discredit the system.

Hwang also called for excluding North Korea from the six-party talks, which sounds silly to me because (a) North Korea is doing just fine excluding itself; (b) eventually, the regime is going to fracture and we’ll want a mechanism in place to talk to Kim Jong Il’s replacement, and eventually manage the peaceful reunification of Korea, and (c) I get that the talks’ value is exclusively cosmetic, so why ruin that by excluding North Korea?

Oh, and Hwang just doesn’t understand why China doesn’t help us pressure North Korea to be nice to everybody. Really?


  1. For information purposes only : Aminex PLC, 1 April 2010, HIGHLIGHTS, North Korea PSA being renegotiated and agreement signed with investing partner. Brian Hall, Chairman of Aminex, said: In North Korea we are now making good progress and we have
    secured a partner for the next stage.

    Suckers !

  2. That’s heart-breaking news, Ernst. I haven’t been this upset since David Irving lost his libel trial against Deborah Lipstadt.

  3. I think Hwang hates Kim Jong-il but not Kim Il-sung. He has not made any critical remark on Kim Il-sung. His view is that Kim Il-sung rose from commoner, and had connection with people, while Kim Jong-il was spoiled palace prince, albeit a black ship of sorts, who had no connection to ordinary people and simply use them as dirt-cheap expendable resources. Or in some cases pests to be eradicated.

    While it is true that Jong-il is alot worse than his dad, it is troubling that he did not repudiate his own Juch philosophy, rather he tries to refurbish it and peddle it as respectable philosophical theory.

    Hwang’s argument of using China is a long standing one. However, he is vague about how to go about it when China is not cooperating and even condoning N. Korea’s antics. If China changes its mind, it would be because N. Korea stiffed China so often that China gets tired of it or China’s current stance badly backfires on themselves.

    I agree that keeping up outside pressure and standing firm can yield very positive results. However, I am not sure about his view that NK won’t crack unless China ‘actively’ undermines it.

    If N. Korean regime goes down, the aftermath would be more undertain than we might think now. We are into harsh worldwide economic downturn which could last for quite a while. This would undermine stability of many countries and they have to pay more attention to domestic matters. In this situation, external problem can also be used as a way to put damper on domestic troubles. So we may have major powers each with domestic problems and could not fully devote their attention on N. Korea. The result could be stalemate among major players. Every player has some plan and conflicting interest, but nobody could prevail, which make the situation more depend on local development inside N. Korea than otherwise.

  4. I’ve always been uneasy about Hwang Jang-yop, and I’m glad to see someone else articulate essentially the same feelings. Thanks, Joshua.

    The guy is older than kimchi, but for the past decade or so, I always wondered if he wasn’t positioning himself (or being positioned) as an interim leader of a post-collapse, going-through-reunification north Korea, sort of what some had hoped the king of Afghanistan would do.

  5. Hwang Jang-Yop isn’t everything we might have hoped for, but he’s a good start. Could we realistically expect anyone from the NK elite to be a dream come true? He’s much better than the crowd he came from, so the fact that he seems lacking in certain ideological respects to us may just be an indication of how far behind North Korea really is.

    As Kushibo said, he might be positioning himself for post-collapse leadership. But he’s getting quite old and I don’t think it would be for entirely selfish purposes. Ideally North Korean ideology would be best if rapidly addressed after the death of the dictator, but realistically I think it has to happen in cautiously gradual and consistent steps.

  6. FYI, S. Korean authorities caught two Talibans who sneaked into the country illegally and working at a (garment&stuffed toy) factory in Changnyung, S. Kyungsang Province. They came in last year on a Pakistan-registered freighter after signing up as on-board manual laborers. They are said to be two of 80 core members under close watch by Pakistani gov. Both are claiming that they are no longer Talibans.

  7. Hwang Jang Yap knows more about Jucheism than almost anyone in the world. The first order of business is to define Juche as a religion, and not as a state ideology. Hwang would probably not use that word, but its clear what he means by ‘ideology.’

    At it’s core, the DPRK is a state-run cult not much different from the Japanese occupation’s cult of state-sponsored Shinto and the worship of the Japanese Emperor. The center-of-gravity (CoG) in NK is as Hwang correctly diagnoses, its cult, deity and cultural narrative. That cannot be defeated by bombs and tanks. Clauswitz and Tsun Szu teach that the enemy’s CoG must be destroyed in war. Treating the DPRK like a normal state in which political-military power occupies the CoG clearly benefits the regime. They want to be seen as a ‘normal’ state. They are not, cannot be under Juche and the cult of the Kims, and will not be until the cult is destroyed not with kinetic force, but as Hwang correctly prescribes, a competing ideology.

    Dr. Andrei Lankov as well as several major missionary leaders have argued that Christianity is already providing that alternative ideology. It is clear that KJI is terrified of Christianity. There are a half million underground believers in NK. The most effective balloon-launched leaflets sent into NK are developed by NK defectors who have become Christians. There is already a robust network of Christians working the Sino-Korean border in support of NK defectors, including an informal underground railroad that has helped swell the number of NK defectors who have safely made it to the ROK at nearly 20,000. Compare to 1999 when the Sunshine Policy was implemented: less than 1,000 defectors were in the ROK then, and that number included Hwang.

    Hwang would probably not argue in favor of missionary activity in NK but that is irrelevant. Christianity has the staying power to displace Jucheism, whether incrementally or all at once. Pyongyang was once host to the East’s largest Christian population (250,000+) and the connections between the zealous ROK missionaries and the underground NK Church could form the pipeline that will eventually unite the two Koreas with an unbreakable bond.

    The minute that NGOs are able (notice I did not say permitted) to enter the DPRK, whether in war or a stability operation, they will come with humanitarian assistance that will be welcomed by the suffering NK people. This will pay dividends in the ideological war, and could be a key factor in keeping down the resistance of former regime loyalists in a post KJI Korea. Christian ethics and principles could also be extremely helpful in easing the transition from socialism to republicanism. There is fear that carpet baggers and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists could cause significant political damage up north should they exploit their neighbors too ruthlessly.

    Lastly, Christianity will immediately tie North Korea to the rest of the world faster and with deeper impact than mere economics can. This is especially true once the Roman Catholic Church establishes a beach head in NK. China does not formally allow the Vatican to administer church affairs in the Chinese Catholic Churches. Ties between the Vatican and South Korea are very strong and the Catholic Church is growing faster than any other religious group in the ROK.

    The ideological war is already under way and the Christian Church is gaining momentum.

  8. I’ve read about other “terrorist” connected Muslims being found in Korea recently. A matter -of-fact, there was a long piece in a newspaper (I’ll try to find the story) about one that had been entering and leaving Korea multiple times on a fake passport before finally being apprehended with information about US troop locations, etc. in his possession.

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