Messiah - My Testimony to Rev. Sun Myung Moon Volume II - Bo Hi Pak

Chapter 21 - The Troubles That Came After the Death of Kim Il Sung [Part 1 of 2]

When Kim Il Sung died on July 8, 1994, I was the only visitor from the South to formally go and offer condolences. By that turn of events, I was once again drawn into a rather strange and turbulent destiny.

Unfortunately, the South Korean press misunderstood my intentions and converged on me en masse. The whole affair became known as the Kim Il Sung funeral scandal, and the government invoked the National Security Law against me. For three years after that, I worked overseas, unable to return to my homeland. I was forced to live the life of an exile.

Did I not return home because I was afraid of something? No, not that. Perhaps I underwent voluntary exile because I didn't want to be charged with a violation of the National Security Law, perhaps even sent to prison? None of those reasons is the truth.

First of all, I never broke the law. As a permanent resident of the United States, I had no obligation to ask permission from the South Korean government when I left for North Korea to pay my respects.

Second, as chairman of the Segye Ilbo, I discussed my plans thoroughly with top government officials before leaving for Pyongyang. They had full knowledge of my trip before I left. "We really don't know anything about the North," those officials said, "so if you take this opportunity to go, Dr. Pak, it is sure to be useful to our nation." Thus, despite having no obligation to request it, I received full permission before I departed.

Finally, my conscience is not troubled because of this trip. I simply did what I had to do. More important, I acted under direction from Heaven. Even from a humanitarian viewpoint, offering condolences is a beautiful act, not something to be ashamed of.

But after the government had given me its blessing, public opinion became a little too hot for them, and there was talk about applying the National Security Law to my actions. As for me, I was ready to submit myself to punishment without so much as a word. I had no intention of making the government's position difficult. What sin did Jesus ever commit that he should be nailed to the cross? My own cross was small by comparison. I was fully prepared to accept the penalty, with gratitude.

So why then did I not return to Korea? The reason is simply that I thought it in the best interests of our nation not to return home. Returning would not have been good for Korea. I had put a lot of effort into bringing about reconciliation and cooperation between the North and the South, and I wanted to avoid a situation that could generate a clash between them. If I returned, a fuss would be raised about the funeral scandal, and I wanted to avoid that. It was only too clear that if I returned to the South and the government exacted its punishment, this would have triggered a rather drastic, if not violent, response from the North.

And there is an even more important reason. If I had returned to Seoul and thus created a stir, this would have been contrary to the true purposes of my mentor, Reverend Moon, whose goal is the unity of the Korean people: dialogue between North and South, the creation of a relationship of trust, an increase in exchanges. He wanted to build agreements between both governments and shed his tears and blood to draw them toward each other. If the South Korean authorities arrested me for violating the National Security Law, it would cause further schism between North and South Korea.

North Korea was very sensitive about matters related to the funeral of President Kim Il Sung. When it heard about the attitude of the South Korean government, it was aghast.

Tragically, Kim Il Sung died just seventeen days before he was scheduled to meet with South Korean President Kim Young Sam (in office 1993-98), on July 25. If President Kim had gone to Pyongyang, they would have held talks, dined together, even drunk toasts together. Kim Young Sam had committed himself. So when the partner in those talks died, it was just common sense that the South Korean president make some expression of sympathy. When he didn't, people thought there was something wrong. After all, the expression of condolences is simply a humanitarian gesture. In fact, it was an incredible opportunity for reconciliation. But instead Kim Young Sam declared a state of emergency, thus extending to North Korea not a comforting hand but the cold muzzle of a gun. Where is the love of one's countrymen in that?

The U.S. forces stationed in South Korea reacted differently. Kim Il Sung died just prior to the convening of the G7 conference in Naples, Italy. The United States was the first to express condolences. President Bill Clinton released a statement expressing sympathy to the North Korean people. Then Russia's President Boris Yeltsin and Japan's Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama joined in, as did all the other leaders of the G7 nations. At UN headquarters, the flag was hung at half-mast and the general secretary conveyed his sincere respects.

Long before Kim Il Sung's death, I once attended a banquet at which President George H. Bush told me a story that left a deep impression on me.

During his presidency, Japan's Emperor Hirohito passed away. South Koreans generally despised Hirohito even more than they did Kim Il Sung. Many Americans also detested him. From the viewpoint of both these peoples, Hirohito had triggered the Pacific war. In Hirohito's name, the Japanese killed or wounded millions of Americans, forced unspeakable anguish and suffering upon the Korean people, and slaughtered or brought similar grief to tens of millions of other people in Asia. After the war, American public opinion seethed with criticism when he was not tried as a war criminal (and consequently received no death sentence).

When Hirohito died, he was the Japanese head of state. Consequently, President Bush faced a dilemma: should he express his condolences, or keep his distance and stay silent? To make matters worse, Bush himself had harbored bitter feelings against the emperor. During the Pacific war, when he was serving as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, Bush's plane was shot down by the Japanese, and Bush narrowly escaped death by parachuting from the plane. He was rescued by an American warship. So if anyone had grievances against the Japanese emperor, it was President Bush. However, he saw Hirohito's death as a golden opportunity for reconciliation. Bush traveled all the way to Tokyo and attended the state funeral for the emperor, thus expressing his sorrow and respect.

His actions astonished the Japanese. They took a new view of both the president and the United States itself, and naturally they expressed their admiration and respect. Of course, there was scathing criticism of the president's trip all across America, but this act remains one of Bush's greater achievements. History recognizes that his attendance at the Japanese emperor's funeral brought about a dramatic reconciliation. Bush is widely remembered as a humanitarian and as a politician with strong moral character and virtue. He told me personally that it was one of the better things he did during his administration. When President Bush told me this story, I found myself deeply moved. I respected him for it, and our friendship grew as a result.

But back to my explanation of why I did not return to South Korea after Kim Il Sung's funeral. I have no particular intention to point out the mistakes of others, or to blow my own trumpet. I simply want to explain that the reason I did not return was to avoid becoming a cause of dispute between the North and South. Since relations between North and South Korea were already far from good, I wanted to avoid becoming a source of greater division.

At the same time, I always hoped to reveal the truth behind my trip to the North, because when I made the trip, the media in the South were full of one-sided, misleading denunciations. Objective, honest reports were few and far between. Some media organizations even assassinated my character, falsely maligning the patriotism and service I had offered to my nation throughout my entire life.

I am writing this not to divest myself of any resentment or bitterness, but I simply feel that I have a duty to history to reveal the truth. That these things also touch upon the honor of Reverend Moon simply reinforces this sense of duty.

"Go Even If It Means You Have to Swim the Yalu River!"

Kim I1 Sung died on July 8, 1994, but the news did not reach the rest of the world until the next day. I received an urgent call in my office at the Segye Ilbo from Reverend Moon, who was in the United States at the time.

"You'd better visit Pyongyang straightaway. I want you to go to offer condolences at the funeral, OK? It's at times like these that we have to show by our actions we are reliable. Even if I can't go myself, I should send you in my place. That's the right way. After all, President Kim said he wanted to work together like brothers, didn't he? So it is the correct dori [right way of action] for me to at least send a representative."

For a moment I was flustered. All the reports from Pyongyang were explicitly announcing that no persons seeking to attend the funeral would be allowed from overseas (outside the North).

"Yes, I understand," I said. "However, it looks like I won't be able to get in even if I want to. The North is saying that it will not accept visitors." His reply took me by surprise. "What kind of talk is that? It will he different for my representatives. There is no way they won't receive you. But if they do refuse, just make sure you get in there, even if you have to swim the Yalu River to do it!"

Right then, I realized how seriously Reverend Moon viewed the matter. I rethought the situation and realized I had interpreted Heaven's plans from a humanistic perspective. Once I understood Reverend Moon's firm intention, I had no choice but to go ahead and fulfill despite all difficulties. Yet I had served in the army during the Korean War, not the navy, and I cannot even swim ten meters. Therefore, I interpreted his words to mean, "Get into North Korea even if at the risk of your life."

I arrived in Beijing on July 11 and went to pay my respects at the memorial altar set up at the North Korean Embassy. Wreaths sent by the top ranks of the Chinese government were already there, but no visitors had yet arrived to pay their respects. When I appeared before anyone else, accompanied by Antonio Betancourt, executive director of the Summit Council for World Peace, the North Koreans could not hide their surprise. After paying my respects, I went over to the North Korean ambassador, Joo Ch'ang Jun, who was standing there wearing a black armband alongside other embassy officials. I greeted him and conveyed Reverend Moon's desire for me to enter the North. I asked that I be allowed to go to Pyongyang to pay Reverend Moon's respects.

Ambassador Joo was moved by Reverend Moon's intentions. He asked me to spend a night or two at my hotel. I had to try. If this didn't work, it would be time to take a trip to the Yalu River. Ambassador Joo said that he would report our request to Secretary Kim Jong Il right away.

I went to the China World Hotel (which I had come to know so well) and spent the day waiting there. Sure enough, the next day, in the evening, I received a call from Ambassador Joo's office. The voice belonged to Mr. Park Jong Geun, the same person I dealt with when Reverend Moon visited the North in 1991. "Our respected General Secretary Kim Jong Il has given special permission to the delegation sent by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The General [Kim Jong Il] was deeply moved by Reverend Moon's kindness."

"Of course! These are Reverend Moon's plans. Heaven is really helping!" I thought to myself, and gave thanks to God. With no more worry of having to swim the Yalu River, I sighed with relief.

Before I describe exactly what happened after I arrived in Pyongyang the next day (July 13), it is important to explain why Reverend Moon was so insistent that I go to North Korea and express his condolences. 

First, Reverend Moon's original intention in going to the North in 1991 and establishing a close friendship with Kim I1 Sung was specifically to prepare for emergency situations such as President Kim's death. Dramatic shifts always happen at a time of crisis. North Korea had lived for forty-nine years under the iron rule of a one-man dictatorship, and now he was gone. Obviously, such a loss could cause a great political earthquake. No one could really know what would happen next.

Fortunately, Kim Il Sung had trained his son and successor, Secretary Kim Jong Il, for almost twenty years. Moreover, he had purposely transferred actual ruling authority to his son while he was still alive, thus cultivating and testing his son's ability to rule. Nevertheless, the one whom North Koreans called the "Sun of Humankind" and "Our Father, the Leader" had died. That would inevitably lead to earth-shaking consequences.

Who could deny that some great change might occur on the Korean peninsula? Trivial matters sometimes lead to conflict between nations. The friction might develop into an emotional standoff or a misjudgment of the situation. From there, a sudden change could lead to full-blown war. Who could honestly say that it would not happen?

"Let us fulfill the dying wish of our beloved Great Leader and complete the reunification of the Korean Fatherland! Let us win that unification and offer it before his departed spirit!" Such a battle cry would be more than enough to stir the blood of North Koreans.

While I was in Pyongyang, I heard talk about certain leaders in the North Korean military who were incensed that the South Korean government had refused to express its condolences and instead put its armed force on alert. These leaders were urging: "Let us attack the South right now and make our way to Seoul. Within a week, we can hold our beloved Great Leader's funeral in Seoul." Of course, the idea was preposterous, nothing more than the maneuverings of a radical and overzealous faction. And yet, looking at history, how often has this kind of delusional thinking been the cause of terrible suffering? Just look at Hitler's delusions. He tried to dominate Europe, believing in the superiority of the German people, and his megalomania threw all of Europe into the furnaces of war. How many lives, how many material assets, became victims of Hitler's illusion?

Reverend Moon thought deeply about the problem of the North. He concluded that this was just the time when communication channels with North Korea needed to be kept open. In his view, establishing a strong connection with Secretary Kim Jong Il, the new leader and holder of authority in North Korea, would be the most decisive approach to security on the peninsula, the safest way to avoid any unforeseen emergency. Moreover, he knew that there would he no better way to establish a strong bond with the North than to send a representative to the funeral of their beloved leader. He saw the situation as a great chance, a veritable "golden opportunity" like the one President Bush had once talked to me about.

Reverend Moon's second reason for sending me north was to show the Northerners that the friendship he openly expressed to President Kim Il Sung was sincere and that their verbal agreements about peace were not false. He believes that "in true love, there is no such concept as 'enemy.' He wanted to make it perfectly clear that the talks established through true love would not change now that President Kim was gone. Indeed, just the opposite was true, that the intention behind their reciprocal cooperation would continue in the era of Secretary Kim Jong Il or until the day of complete national reunification.

Reverend Moon's third reason was based on a belief that the expression of sympathy is a beautiful and noble virtue. In Korea we have an expression kwan hon sang je, which refers to the four great ceremonies of life: the coming-of-age ceremony, the marriage ceremony, the funeral ceremony, and the ceremony of offering piety to one's ancestors. Among these four, the greatest emphasis is given to sang, the offering of condolences during the time of mourning. For that reason, in history, if an enemy general passed away, his opponent would express his respects by flying a black flag or a flag at half-mast, or even sending a special envoy, despite the fact that they may have been locked in a life and death battle. One can find many examples of this custom in the history of Roman warfare or the history of chivalry in Europe, for example.

Thus, it was only natural for Rev. Sun Myung Moon to pay his respects at the funeral of President Kim Il Sung, a man with whom he had pledged a bond of brotherhood and exchanged promises to meet again. In the end, he concluded, what better representative to send than the personal assistant who accompanied him when he met with the North Korean president.

To Pyongyang Once Again

On July 13, the North Korean government sent a special charter flight from Pyongyang to Beijing. Among the travelers, I saw the faces of some Koreans whom I knew lived in Japan, but there were almost no non-Koreans. I surmised that North Korea was only inviting, as a matter of policy, representatives of Korean communities in Japan and the United States.

When I arrived at Soonan Airport that day, the atmosphere was completely different from the time I arrived with Reverend Moon in 1991. Everyone disembarked quietly and boarded the buses waiting for them, after which they were all shuttled off to their respective destinations. I was met at the airport by Secretary Kim Yong Sun.

The next day, all the overseas Koreans gathered at the People's Cultural Palace. From there, we were taken as a group to the Keum Soo San Presidential Palace, where Kim Il Sung's body was lying in state.

I arranged for three large Oriental-style floral offerings (similar to wreaths) to be prepared. I asked them to write the name of Sun Myung Moon, chairman of the Federation for World Peace, on one, the name of Hak Ja Han Moon, chairwoman of the Women's Federation for World Peace, on another, and my own name on a third, as president of the Summit Council for World Peace.

A certain daily based in Seoul reported that the Reverend Moon's floral offering was the largest there. However, that was not true. Of the numerous kinds of wreaths placed around the remains of the North Korean president, the largest was that bearing the name of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

On each side of that were other wreaths dedicated by the highest officials of the Worker's Party and the North Korean regime, for example, the premier and deputy premier. Lined up, these wreaths created a giant wall of flowers.

Representing Reverend and Mrs. Moon, Bo Hi Pak traveled to North Korea to offer condolences to Secretary Kim on the passing of his father.

All wreaths dedicated by overseas dignitaries had been made to the same specifications by the North Korean government. The only difference between the wreaths was the ribbon attached to each one displaying the name of the dignitary. (At the time of the funeral, you couldn't buy a single flower in all of Pyongyang. They had run out. The North Korean government even sent a special plane to pick up any flowers available in downtown Beijing.) Given the circumstances, it is hard to interpret the report that Reverend Moon's wreath was the biggest as anything but a deliberate attempt to distort the truth and sully Reverend Moon's name.

After ordering the wreaths, I spent most of the day waiting in a room with other overseas dignitaries, At first we could not understand why they were having us wait so long.

Mournful music was coming from inside the Presidential Palace, apparently played by a military band, and we could hear loud weeping.

Only in the evening did our turn come, and it was then that we understood why we had been kept waiting so long. General Secretary Kim Jong Il wanted to personally receive the overseas Koreans after dealing for the most part with mourners who had flooded to Pyongyang from all over the nation. We lined up in a long row and placed our wreaths and offered our respects to the departed. The embalmed body of President Kim was in a glass case, looking for all the world as if he were alive and simply taking a nap.

After that, we were introduced one by one to Secretary Kim Jong Il. When my turn came, the master of ceremonies introduced me as Bo Hi Pak, special assistant to Chairman Sun Myung Moon. It was my first sight of Kim Jong Il in person. When I stepped forward to shake his hand and offer my condolences, Secretary Kim spoke first.

"Is Chairman Sun Myung Moon well?" he asked, looking glad to meet me. "Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to come. The president always talked about Chairman Moon. He always believed they would meet again, but it is such a pity that, well, now this has happened." He held my hand firmly with both of his while he spoke.

"Chairman Moon sent me, as he was unable to come himself," I said. "He understands well the sorrow you must be experiencing, and he asked me to convey his sincere condolences. Thank you for making it possible for me to come once again to Pyongyang."

Conscious of those waiting behind me, I tried to keep things short and did not intend to talk for too long. The general secretary once again grasped my hand in his as he said, "Thank you very much. And please convey my thanks to Chairman Moon."

I went on to shake hands with other high-ranking North Korean officials who were lined up, including Defense Minister Oh Jin Woo (head of the armed forces), Premier Kang Song San, and Deputy Premier (and Vice President) Kim Yong Nam.

The Funeral of President Kim Il Sung

For several days there were no funeral-related events or ceremonies, and this gave me a bit of free time. I took the opportunity to study about the situation in North Korea, which I did mainly through the television at my accommodations.

Pyongyang was a veritable sea of weeping. Actually, I guess all of North Korea was, for the whole North Korean population wept day and night. It was an amazing sight, something you could only see in North Korea. I have seen and heard the weeping of intensely devoted sons and daughters who lost a loving parent quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and on that day, that was the character of all the North Koreans. Right then, they were all sons and daughters who had lost their beloved father.

It was the first July I ever experienced in Pyongyang, and I have to say the heat was truly stifling. As far as humidity goes, I'd say the discomfort index was up around ninety or so. In the midst of this incredible heat, people all over North Korea wept and wailed to utter exhaustion, until finally they collapsed, fainted, or lost their senses. The hospitals of Pyongyang were full, and apparently many people died.

Every morning I was paid a courtesy call by Chon Keum Ch'ol, a North Korean councilor whose name was well known in South Korea. Each day, he would bring me copies of South Korean newspapers and broadcast reports. By the look on his face, I guessed that he was incensed by the hard line of South Korean President Kim Young Sam. After informing me that I was the object of criticism and condemnation, he would tell me about the reports in each South Korean daily the previous day.

I was calm about the whole matter. I felt that such a state of affairs was only to be expected. I had come to the North to pay Reverend Moon's respects, in response to God's will and with the conviction that I was right to do so. I was not concerned about my reputation. Although I was the only visitor from South Korea and the criticism aimed at me in the South intensified day by day, the esteem and friendship that the North Korean government felt toward me gradually increased proportionally.

Finally, on July 18, the farewell service and funeral parade for Kim Il Sung was held. I got special treatment; while the other overseas guests were transported to the funeral site by bus in a group, I was provided with a VIP car (a Mercedes 560). When the time came, I was guided to the upper stands (the presidential section) of the Kim Il Sung Memorial Stadium, a location I was previously familiar with only through film reports and photographs.

The stadium was filled with tens of thousands of representatives from all over the country, while the road that led from the Presidential Palace to the stadium was lined with some two million citizens (according to numbers released by the North Korean authorities). They had been waiting since the night before to bid their final farewell.

After a while, a solemn procession came into view. The first car carried a huge portrait of the deceased North Korean president. Surrounded by an escort of military sidecars, it came slowly into view, to the accompaniment of martial music. The portrait showed President Kim I1 Sung fresh and full of life, with a broad smile across his face, almost as if he were saying, "Dead? Why should I be dead? Here I am, alive as alive can be."

As soon as the portrait appeared, the weeping of the crowd reached a peak. Young or old, man or woman, everyone cried without restraint. They were virtually bathing in sweat and tears. The women, small children, and young female students were the worst. Their weeping seemed to shake heaven and earth. It is truly hard to describe in words.

I later heard that one critic brushed aside these scenes as completely unworthy of serious consideration. He criticized them as the result of brainwashing and as performances orchestrated by the North Korean authorities. In other words, the people were just pretending to weep to preserve their lives, but inside they were actually smiling.

I was right there, however, and I saw everything with my own eyes. When observing others, people do not use only their five senses; they also have a "sixth sense." After all, we humans are spiritual beings. No matter how perfectly someone may pretend, if the actions arc not true, somehow it always shows. I like to think that my own intuition is not exactly dull. I wonder if someone could shed such a flood of tears if they were only pretending were crying out of concern that someone was watching them.

The weeping of the North Koreans, however, was real tears shed by real orphans who had lost their father. Their wailing had a mysterious power to reach inside you and shake up your soul.

While observing that scene, I came to realize that North Korea is not actually a communist nation. Nor is it a nation of the juche ideology. Rather, it is a theocratic nation, and the religion is Kim Il Sungism. The weeping I heard and saw was rooted in a kind of religious faith. That faith, by the way, exhibited awesome power. When they called their beloved president Great Leader, they were not simply mouthing some title. To them, it was the name of God.

When I realized this, I thought of something else. I, too, am in the position of living in attendance to my "Father," my Parent. Moreover, my parent is the True Parent, namely Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Together, he and Mrs. Moon are my True Parents. That is my faith. My life has been dedicated to fulfilling the utmost loyalty to True Parents. And it is my determination to live what life remains to me that same way, devoting all my soul, strength, and ability.

So when I observed the behavior of the North Koreans, I put a question to my conscience: When your True Parent passes away, will you be able to weep and lament as they do? Could you pour out such heart-filled, passion-filled tears, day and night? Could you beat the ground and lament the passing of your "Great Father" like this? My conscience gave a straight, honest answer: "You have much to learn from them. Your standard still falls short of the mark."

It is true! North Korea is a kind of religious society. Their dedication toward their Great Leader is not the usual kind of relationship between a ruler and his people. The relationship is much more like that between the founder of a religious group and the group's believers. And the amazing thing is that their religious fervor toward their founder is held together by a quality of loyalty, devotion, and piety greater than that which any religious group in the world displays. The only thing is, their faith is based on atheism; it is a faith without God, so it has no connection to the eternal aspect of life. Moreover, they put God aside and put a human being in His place. Just as Reverend Moon declared at the Mahn Soo tae Assembly Hall, it was a false faith, a fantasy, a faith without salvation.

Standing amidst a plaza full of mourners, my heart was so full of compassion for my North Korean compatriots that I found no way to deny it. It was a moment of decision and determination; if I truly loved my countrymen, I should devote my life and energy to bringing a true faith to them.

In this way, my trip to attend the funeral of President Kim Il Sung had quite an impact on me and even had a great influence on my personal life of faith.

As I watched the funeral parade of Kim Il Sung, I thought of some words that Reverend Moon had once said. "Our Unification Church believers should go to North Korea at least once. They have to go there and learn from them. The North Koreans have such a strong faith, even though they live their faith with a false truth. On the other hand, even though they have the actual truth, our Unification Church believers still cannot match their standard."

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library