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 2 of 2]
A Meeting With Kim Jong Il
July 20 was the day of the memorial service, the final event. Approximately one million representatives from across North Korea gathered around the Kim Il Sung Memorial Stadium. I would be returning home after it.
The memorial service took two hours, and all the while the sun beat down. Even though it was called a memorial service, in essence it was simply a matter of hearing three speeches. Of course, there were no prayers, funeral songs, or eulogies.
The three speeches were made by representatives of the party, the army, and Koreans living overseas.
The speech by Kim Young Nam, who was then vice premier, minister of foreign affairs, and a secretary of the North Korean Worker's Party, was particularly eloquent. Jong Man Hoh also gave an excellent address. He was the representative of Cho Ch'ong Ryon, the Association of North Koreans Living in Japan.
The viewing stand at the memorial service held fin. Kim it Sung on July 20, 1994, in Pyongyang, Norte Korea.
When I arrived at the stadium, I was guided to a place in the same row as Secretary Kim Jong Il, so I stood not far from him on his left. Next to the secretary, who stood in the center, were Oh Jin Woo, defense minister, on his right, and Premier Kang Song San on his left. On either side of them, the most powerful individuals in North Korea stood in a line, which made for a clear display of the power structure that ruled the nation. Kim Kyong Lee, the younger sister of Secretary Kim Jong Il, stood with Secretary Kim Yong Sun, who lent her an arm for support. Apart from her and Kim Jong Il, there was no sign of any other family members. Behind this row of dignitaries stood the generals of the North Korean People's Army in a line.
Chairs had been provided for everyone in the presidential stand, but because Kim Jong Il did not take his seat, neither did anyone else. Some people collapsed, unable to bear the strain of standing under the merciless sun for two hours.
Soon, even the dignitaries in the presidential stand began to faint. In particular, the more important generals began dropping left and right. As I strove to endure, I experienced the agony of standing upright for two hours. If there was one comfort, it was that I managed to endure to the end while even the generals dropped.
Dr. Pak and Secretary Kim Jong Il on July. 20, 1994.
What was more surprising, however, was that every now and then, when I glanced toward the center of the stand to catch a glimpse of the expression on Secretary Kim Jong Il's face, I saw him standing there, upright like a stone pillar, firm and adamant, unyielding as he listened attentively to the memorial addresses. Before leaving for North Korea, I had heard reports that Kim Jong Il's health was poor. At the memorial service, however, I came to have a fairly good idea of the general secretary's actual stamina and health.
The long memorial service finally came to an end. I was drinking a glass of water in the VIP waiting room when Secretary Kim Yong Sun came running up. He informed me that General Secretary Kim wanted to meet me. After conveying that wish, he commented, "Chairman Pak, this is a privilege among privileges. Our beloved general secretary is granting private meetings to absolutely no one during this mourning period. Even today, he says that he will meet with only one person, Chairman Bo Hi Pak." Kim Yong Sun emphasized the point. "It is a great glory. Please just understand this fact."
He then led me to the presidential suite, located directly beneath the presidential stand in the stadium. When I entered the room, Kim Jong Il, who had been waiting for me, greeted me warmly. He should have been worn out at the end of the long memorial service, but there was no sign of tiredness in his voice or face.
Secretary Kim spoke first. "When you return, I would like you to convey my sincere thanks and greetings to Chairman Sun Myung Moon. My father really and truly liked Chairman Moon. Whenever I saw him, he would always talk about meeting again with Chairman Sun Myung Moon, and how he wanted to have the chairman visit the Republic once again. It is such a shame that he has passed away like this."
"Chairman Moon always talked about how he wanted to have the president visit him in America and go fishing together in Alaska," I replied. "It's really a pity that he passed away. Perhaps you, Secretary Kim, might take up the president's unfulfilled wish and visit the United States yourself? Chairman Moon would certainly love to take you fishing, as he wanted to do with the president."
"Ah, are you going back to the United States, then?" said Kim Jong Il. "If you do, could you please convey my sincere thanks to President Clinton for his kind condolences. You know, so many heads of state from all over the world sent their condolences. I realized once again how great my father was, and how many people he had influenced in his life."
I didn't want to lose an opportunity like this. "It is a shame that President Kim Il Sung passed away just seventeen days before the North-South Joint Summit," I responded. "He was always so dedicated to the goal of reunification, and yet he died without putting into place that great event. It would have been a great step forward for national reunification. It's a sorrow for all of our compatriots, both North and South. Everyone earnestly hopes, Mr. Secretary, that you will take up the late president's determination and accomplish the North-South summit without fail."
"Of course I'm thinking about how to carry on my father's determination and intentions," said the secretary. "I'm sure he will not rest peacefully until reunification of our homeland is achieved." He next spoke to me in a very sincere manner. "Dr. Pak, please try to come here more often in the future, won't you? At the moment, with all these things going on, we cannot talk much, but next time you cone, let's sit down to dinner together and have a good talk about things. Please make sure you come. Anyhow, for now, shall we take a few photographs together?"
With our hands still clasped together, we walked to the center of the presidential suite and stood side by side. This time, it was my turn to hold the secretary's hand firmly as we took those photographs. I thought about how Reverend Moon held on to Kim Il Sung's hand when they took photographs in 1991.
Press Conference in Beijing
On July 23, I returned to Beijing after ten days in Pyongyang. It was inevitable that there would be reporters there, both from South Korea and abroad, so I did not try to avoid them. Instead, my plan was to meet the reporters head-on. Dr. Mark P. Barry, senior research fellow of the Summit Council, flew from Washington to organize the press conference.
Just before the press conference, I received a rather unusual communication from a South Korean official asking me to meet him for just five minutes before the press conference. I gave instructions that he come to my room before I left for the press conference. The official spoke briefly and to the point.
"I'm sorry about this, Dr Pak. I have come here on instructions from above. What I am about to say to you is not my own personal opinion. We know that you consulted with a number of government authorities before you left for Pyongyang. We also know that you received informal support and consent for your trip. Nevertheless, we would like you to pretend it never happened and say nothing about it at your press conference today. Again, I'm sorry about all this."
The moment I heard these words, anger boiled up inside me. "Isn't it the government's responsibility to protect a citizen's life, assets and honor?" I thought to myself. "But now you say public opinion is a bit too hot and you're hanging me out to dry? You've stuck me up in a tree and now you just let the tree shake and pitch away in the wind? How on earth can the people entrust their life, property, and honor to this kind of government?"
But the next moment I recovered my composure. "Thank you for coming all the way here. I'm sorry my trip to Pyongyang has caused you so much trouble," I said. "I have no desire or intention of putting the government in a difficult position. Please report to your superiors that they have nothing to worry about. From start to finish, my trip to offer condolences at President Kim Il Sung's funeral is completely my own individual responsibility. If there is anything to take responsibility for, I will take it myself, without hesitation," I added, and then stood up.
I left for the press conference. Reporters had gathered from all of the world's major media organizations. In particular, all the Beijing correspondents of the South Korean news-papers were waiting eagerly in the front row. Many of the world's major television outlets were setting up to cover the press conference: U.S. based CNN, which boasts a huge worldwide network; Japan's primary broadcaster, NHK; and South Korea's KBS, MBC, and so forth. Some of the world's top news services were there also: UPI, AP, Reuters, Japan's Kyodo, and South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. From China, there was Xinhua, and the Central Television Agency. All together, there were close to one hundred reporters.
After an introduction from Antonio Betancourt, I read a brief, prepared statement and then took questions from the reporters. In particular, there were four specific areas that the South Korean reporters took issue with. First they asked about my intention in going north; had I gone as the chairman of the Segye Times, or had I gone there for the purposes of jomun, the formal offering of condolences? This was a big issue, because the South Korean government had prohibited travel to the North for the purpose of offering condolences. [Editor's note: At the time, the South Korean government banned travel to the North mainly to prevent radical South Korean activists from exploiting such "offering of condolences" for propaganda and political purposes. Such actions were seen almost completely as politically motivated maneuvers.] Moreover, the current atmosphere in South Korea suggested strongly that violations of this prohibition would be stringently dealt with according to South Korean National Security Law.
I told them unequivocally that I had gone to North Korea to offer condolences. I also mentioned that, apart from that purpose, I was also able to gather a lot of information at the same time. This announcement really surprised the South Korean reporters, because it meant that I would definitely he treated as a violator of the National Security Law. However, I was testifying before history, and I wanted to tell the truth like it was. I did not want to offer a convenient answer simply for the sake of expediency.
The reporters' second point of interest was the state of Secretary Kim Jong Il's health. For one, the file pictures of the secretary that were shown on television together with reports on the funeral showed him hardly able to stand, like a patient suffering from the advanced stages of a severe disease. Moreover, the funeral itself took place at a time when numerous rumors were circulating that Kim Jong Il's health would not hold out much longer.
I spoke to the reporters frankly, conveying my own impressions. I said that there did not appear to be any problem with the secretary's health. I mentioned that when I held or shook his hand, his hands were very warm. It is hard to describe just how much that one comment -- "his hand was very warm" -- resulted in derision. I was summarily ostracized and all but branded as Kim Jong Il's chief of propaganda.
But the fact remains that I simply expressed my honest and sincere impression. On the day of the memorial service, when soldiers in large numbers were falling left and right from the heat, Kim Jong Il had stood there, at attention, until the very end. To top it off, when he met me afterward, he showed no signs of being tired at all. Taking all those things into consideration, I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing particularly wrong with his health.
It turned out that what I said was quite true. Many years after President Kim Il Sung's funeral, Kim Jong Il is still working normally, and solely responsible for the running of North Korea. If I had been exaggerating or overstating the case, he should have already collapsed by now.
The third point of interest was my one-on-one interview with Secretary Kim Jong Il. The reporters wanted to know what we had talked about. In response to this question, too, I told it just like it was, without embellishment or understatement. I told the reporters that the secretary had asked me to convey his thanks to Reverend Moon upon returning to America, and that in relation to a North-South summit, he expressed his intention to follow in his father's footsteps and see his father's wishes fulfilled.
The fourth point -- and this was of special interest to the South Korean reporters -- was the question of whether I made the trip with the approval of the South Korean government or if I had reported my intentions in some way to the government authorities before leaving South Korea. In response, I said that I undertook my recent visit to the North purely by my own determination, and that I would take full responsibility for everything it entailed. I also made it clear, however, that I had conveyed the condolences and sympathies of Reverend and Mrs. Moon.
For the moment, that was the end of the press conference, but the correspondents for the South Korean papers were not satisfied. They followed me to my room and insisted on hearing more. If I have ever made a mistake in my life, it was talking with those South Korean correspondents in my room. I spoke with them on the promise that what I said would not be reported, that it would be "off the record." They asked many difficult questions and sought out my opinions. Believing that they would abide by the "off the record" principle, I spoke candidly with them for quite some time.
The next morning, however, there were all sorts of terrible reports in all the South Korean dailies. I was described as if I had gone to the North and been brainwashed by the North Korean authorities. In page after page of reports, the newspapers did little else but pander to sensationalist views and exploit the curiosity and excitement of the reading audience. From start to finish, they made a complete meal of me.
What was most painful about the whole thing was the way they started with completely groundless ideas or unreasonable and absurd facts and proceeded to blow them up out of all proportion. There were also deliberate attempts at character assassination.
At a press conference convened in Keying, Dr. Pak displays photos of his trip to North Korea.
For example, although I had conducted the press conference in English, I was attacked as having referred to Secretary Kim Jong Il using the Korean word kak-ha. The root of the problem was that I spoke of Kim Jong Il as "His Excellency" when I used English. The reporters from South Korea took this as my using a higher honorific title for Secretary Kim Jong Il than that which is used even for the U.S. president.
The U.S. president is usually a position that commands the highest of honorific titles within international society. The title used is not "His Excellency" but "The Honorable." The title "His Excellency" is mainly used for ambassadors involved in international relations. Yet is there anyone in Korea who refers to an ambassador as kak-ha? When the ambassadors from South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs go overseas, they are inevitably referred to as "His Excellency," but this does not signify kak-ha. In Korean in this case we say -nim, but does it even make sense to say that the ambassadors whom the president sends out are all kak-ha? To make a long story short, the title "His Excellency" is no more than a customary expression used in international diplomatic circles. It is used because the person represents a nation, and that is all.
In my discussions and interactions with the top officials of North Korea, I never referred to President Kim Il Sung and Secretary Kim Jong Il as kak-ha but consistently used the suffix -- nim. I never used the title kak-ha while I was in North Korea, not even once.
For the papers to judge that because I used the title "His Excellency" when referring to Secretary Kim Jong Il that I called him kak-ha, and then to splash it across the headlines and proceed to denounce and condemn me is outrageous. I was simply following international custom, nothing more and nothing less. Did the papers do this from ignorance? Was it intentional character assassination? In any case, whether the cause was ignorance or intentional, the result was the same; my good name and reputation, which I had sought to pre-serve and uphold all my life, were summarily demolished.
Another example was the matter of Reverend Moon's wreath. As I mentioned before, one important daily newspaper exaggerated and embellished its reports by saying the floral wreath placed in Reverend Moon's name was bigger than all the other wreaths at the funeral. They falsely reported the facts as if Reverend Moon and myself were following the deceased North Korean president in obedience, and that I had gone to the North to pledge my loyalty and obeisance. Because such a report impugned the good name of my mentor and teacher, I could not help feeling deeply anguished and dissatisfied. As I mentioned above, the report about the wreath was nothing more than a lie.
The third matter to be distorted was my comment about Secretary Kim Jong Il's hand being warm. The South Korean newspaper reports falsely reasoned that I had shaken the hand of a dying man, a veritable walking corpse, and described it as being warm. They proceeded to treat Bo Hi Pak as someone completely off his head, as a real mental case.
No matter how you look at the reality, all I did was tell the facts. As far as my conscience is concerned, there was no exaggeration, not even the slightest. I did not go to the North to diagnose his health as a physician. Quite simply, when I had shaken his hand, it was warm, and so "warm" was how I described it.
One of the things that Reverend Moon has taught me is that "the truth will come out eventually." One thing I did learn from the whole affair is that there is no such thing as "off the record" in this world.
At the time, I wanted earnestly to tell the Korean people of the true motives and background behind my visit to the North, so I prepared a short explanation and intended to make it public. Unfortunately, no media organizations were willing to publish it, even in the form of a paid advertisement, for fear of getting heat from the South Korean government. This book is, in essence, a testimony of my life story, to remain behind for history. For that reason, I have decided to include the full text of that explanation here.
"A Letter of Explanation to the Korean People"
Although it was never my intention, it appears that my recent trip to Pyongyang has caused a lot of concern to my fellow citizens from South Korea. For that, I feel I am truly sorry.
I would like to take this opportunity to clarify my motives for visiting North Korea and to explain the background behind my decision to attend the funeral of North Korean President Kim Il Sung.
First of all, I took this action based upon the firm conviction that it would advance the cause of national reunification.
Motivated by a passionate love of all my Korean compatriots, I have long been working for the cause of national reunification. With a firm conviction that my trip north would result in a watershed for national reunification, I was determined to not let such a brilliant opportunity pass. For that reason, I accepted the invitation of the North Korean authorities when it came.
All our people share a common destiny. We were born to live eternally together. And yet, for the last half a century, we have been forced to endure the pain of division between North and South. Personally, I have always felt great anguish over this fact. Now the hope of reunification is coming ever closer, and with a summit meeting scheduled between North and South, I believed that the funeral of President Kim Il Sung was a golden opportunity for our people, both North and South, to heal the wounds of our past division in the spirit of humanitarianism and love for compatriots. Based on this conviction, I decided to visit the North.
I have always believed that no matter how great the pain and resentments of the past may be, our people must be reconciled before the sacred task of national reunification can be achieved. Furthermore, if we are to be reconciled, then at some point the wall of our reciprocal resentment must be pulled down. In my view, the funeral of President Kim Il Sung was an excellent opportunity for that process to begin.
During the time of President Kim Il Sung's funeral, our compatriots in the North wept in sorrow and grief. If we shared their pain, through a transcendent love for our countrymen, the Korean people of North and South could become one again through forgiveness and love, thus opening the sluice gate to the waters of reunification. In my recent trip North, I acted unhesitatingly based on that conviction.
Second, I was moved by a determination to practice Reverend Sun Myung Moon's teaching of true love.
In December 1991, Reverend Sun Myung Moon visited Pyongyang together with Mrs. Moon and held historical talks with President Kim Il Sung. At that time, Reverend Moon embraced President Kim Il Sung despite past injustices perpetrated on him by North Korea. He established a relationship of brotherhood with the North Korean leader.
Reverend Sun Myung Moon warmly embraced President Kim Il Sung, despite the fact that he has spent his entire life fighting communism. When I saw this take place, I felt to the bone his noble teaching of "true love," a teaching he himself practices constantly. Indeed, his teaching was indelibly etched upon my heart at that time.
Reverend Sun Myung Moon has consistently taught that there is no concept of "enemy" within this "true love." Together, Reverend and Mrs. Moon are my true teachers and my true parents. For that reason, I have naturally lived my life seeking to uphold and implement Reverend Moon's teachings, even at the cost of my life itself.
In this context, my recent trip to Pyongyang was not a journey to the house of my enemy, but a trip to my brother's house. I went to North Korea so that I could practice the same "true love" that Reverend Moon teaches and lives every day of his life. Such true love also expresses the noble Christian spirit of loving even one's enemies.
My third reason for visiting the North was my conviction that the offering of condolences is the most basic expression of a humanitarian spirit.
For many centuries, our ancestors have practiced and passed on certain noble social traditions. Kwan hon sang je embodies the four great ceremonies of life: the coming-of-age ceremony, the marriage ceremony, the funeral ceremony, and the ceremony of piety to one's ancestors. Even in times of war, when an enemy general passed from this life, there was a tradition of his opponents offering their respects. The expression of condolences is also an international custom. It is a humanitarian tradition that comes naturally to the fore in the process of our human lives. It is altogether reasonable, natural, and proper.
When Emperor Hirohito of Japan passed away, it meant the death of someone who had been one of the greatest enemies of America and other Asian nations at the time of World War II. It meant the death of an enemy who had inflicted great harm on these nations. Nevertheless, George H. Bush, the incumbent president of the United States, who himself had very nearly suffered death in the Second World War, crossed the Pacific Ocean to attend the emperor's funeral and pay his respects. He used the funeral of the emperor as a great opportunity to wipe away the resentment and enmity between the United States and Japan.
When former U.S. President Richard Nixon died, the communist government of Vietnam expressed its sympathy with the American people, despite the fact that they were the very ones whom former President Nixon had harmed the most.
Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union was the greatest and most terrible dictator that history has ever known, and yet when he died, Dwight Eisenhower; then president of the United States, paid his respects. During the Korean War, Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong was responsible for the deaths of more American soldiers than the North Korean army, but when he died, then U.S. President Jimmy Carter also expressed his sincere condolences.
Likewise, just recently, when President Kim Il Sung died, President Bill Clinton expressed his sincere sympathies toward the North Korean people. Even the famous American evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, who twice met with Kim Il Sung, visited the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations in New York to pay his respects.
The General Assembly of the United Nations offered a silent moment of reflection for President Kim Il Sung, and flags were flown at half mast. Moreover, the general secretary offered his condolences to North Korea on behalf of the United Nations. That many international heads of state and leaders in the free world gave their condolences is a widely known fact.
Personally, I believe that the offering of condolences is the most basic practice of humanitarianism and that it transcends matters of politics and ideology. Accordingly, my attendance at the funeral of President Kim Il Sung and my expression of sympathy is nothing more than a purely humanitarian gesture, and must be distinguished from actions "benefiting the enemy" or violent pro-North demonstrations and such. [Translator's note: In South Korea, certain radical activists held violent pro-North demonstrations, particularly around the time that the death of Kim Il Sung took place. The author's actions were apparently compared to such demonstrations by the South Korean media.]
People of South Korea! We must always look to the future. Moreover, we have to consider what kind of future we will leave for our descendants. Now is the time, more than any other, when we must stand up and move toward the hope of reunification. We must free all Koreans from the threat of nuclear weapons. We must eliminate completely any trends or tendencies toward war from the Korean peninsula. We must also strive, in some way, to lessen the suffering of those divided families that do not even know whether their loved ones are dead or alive.
During this recent trip to North Korea, I took every opportunity I could to bring the sufferings and tribulations of the divided families to the attention of the North Korean leadership. At the least, I was able to obtain agreement that we should give priority to establishing the whereabouts and status of members of divided families, even if this must precede the formal activities of our two governments to advance reunification. I am happy to inform you that there are concrete plans being implemented to achieve that goal, even now.
We have a number of pressing issues to address, for example, the reunion of ten million members of divided families. Is it truly the best path, the best option, to cling doggedly to the past, to do little more than destabilize and darken our future prospects? My recent trip north gave me ample opportunity to reflect upon this question.
I have always believed that internecine conflict must not darken the Korean peninsula again, under any circumstances. Also, that the problem of division between North and South must be resolved peacefully. When, in recent times, the problem of nuclear weapons fostered a warlike atmosphere on the Korean peninsula, leading to great anxiety among the people, no one was more concerned than I. Moreover, when we heard that a summit would take place between North and South Korea, no one was happier than I. My heart was truly jubilant at the prospect.
In conclusion, it is my sincere opinion that a solution to division and reconciliation between North and South can only he found in Christ's teaching of love and forgiveness. In the final moments of his life, when he was on the cross, Jesus Christ prayed for the forgiveness of the Roman soldier who pierced his side with a spear. I believe that the key to unity within our people can be found in practicing that noble love he exemplified. I promise before my fellow compatriots that I will gladly devote my life to the sacred cause of national reunification.
I conclude my report to you, my compatriots, of the true motives behind my recent trip to the North. I sincerely hope that I may find your understanding and forbearance in all these matters.
Bo Hi Pak
A Missed Opportunity
As I conclude this chapter in my book, there is one matter about which I feel a great deal of sadness. On June 13, 2000, the world was astonished by the news of a three-day summit between the heads of the North and South Korean governments. It was truly a milestone in North-South reconciliation. President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea traveled to Pyongyang, where he met, shook hands with, and embraced National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il.
In truth, however, this milestone should and could have been accomplished in 1994. This is what is truly regrettable and heartbreaking. This precious moment was delayed for more than six years.
When President Kim Il Sung died on July 8, 1994, a mere seventeen clays before the scheduled summit, it was a dramatic turn of events. What if President Kim Young Sam had made the following declaration: "President Kim Il Sung, whom I was scheduled to meet in seventeen days' time, has died. I cannot express the depth of my sorrow. Therefore, I will travel to Pyongyang to pay my respects. This is something that transcends politics or strategy, but is a most natural deed between people of the same ethnic group, between compatriots."
If he had gone to Pyongyang, how deeply inspired General Secretary Kim Jong Il would have been. How astonished and moved would twenty-five million North Koreans have felt. If he had, then I think there is a very good chance that a North-South summit would have taken place quite naturally, and the relationship between the North and the South would have become quite close, like a single, bonded family. With the stern, hard hearts of the Northern Koreans melted, any matter could have been discussed. No dialogue would have been impossible. The thaw in North-South relations that is coming about now could have been accomplished at that time. And yet, at the time, there was no such sense of vision, and such courageous action was missing. In contrast, the South's actions led to greater agitation among the North Koreans, and the North Koreans' sense of resentment simply compounded.
Recently, in the atmosphere of thawing relations, the North, while stating that only President Kim Young Sam would not be permitted to come. If the actions at that time had not pained the North Koreans so, would they have acted like this now?
Opportunities always come to leaders of nations. However, can a leader recognize the opportunity when it comes? Does a leader have the foresight and courage to grab that opportunity? These are the things that decide a nation's destiny. The current president, Kim Dae Jung, has taken such an opportunity.
Recently, there was a reunion between divided families where a son who had come down from the North embraced his mother and wept. His mother was more than one hundred years old. When looking at her son, the mother's expression was blank; her memory was vague and obscure. She was old. If only this reunion had happened six years before, how much joy would she have felt?
But even more sorrowful is the number of aged members of divided families who have passed into the next world with the names of their flesh and blood still whispering on their lips. It is a sorrowful state of affairs, whatever way you think about it.