Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop laid to rest in South Korea

South Korea held a funeral Thursday for high-profile North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop, who once tutored autocratic leader Kim Jong Il, with officials praising his efforts to resolve rights abuses in his communist homeland.

Hwang Jang-yop, a key architect of North Korea's state policy of isolationism and self-reliance, was found dead Sunday at his Seoul home at the age of 87. Hwang was one of North Korea's most powerful officials when he shocked the world by defecting to South Korea in 1997 via China and the Philippines.

After arriving in South Korea, Hwang wrote books and delivered speeches condemning Kim's regime as authoritarian. He lived under tight police security amid fears of assassination attempts by North Korean agents. 

An initial examination of Hwang's body showed no signs of foul play, though final autopsy results have yet to be released.Earlier this year, two North Korean army majors were sentenced to 10 years in prison in South Korea for planning to assassinate him. North Korea has denied the plot.

Earlier this week, Hwang was posthumously decorated with a top government medal for his efforts to bring democracy to the North and disclose the reality of life in the authoritarian country.

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