Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk
Following is an excerpt from a book by WorldTribune and Geostrategy-Direct columnist Donald Kirk and the Korean author Kim Ki-Sam, “How South Korea’s Kim Dae-Jung bought his Peace Prize and financed Kim Jong-Il’s nuclear program”.
South Korea’s first woman president has been impeached over allegations involving a confidante, but this book spotlights what appears to be a scandal of epic scale.
While the governments of South Korea and the United States helped suppress publication of this book in both countries, it has been published to acclaim in Norway, the home of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kim Ki-Sam and his family left South Korea for the United States in March 2002, and Kim [having settled in Pennsylvania] requested asylum in December 2003 after revealing much of what he knew to the Korean media.
The bottom line of his revelations was that a huge amount of money, allegedly $1.5 billion, had illegally flowed into North Korean coffers to grease the path to the June 2000 Summit. At the same time, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and other agencies, expending countless resources and precious time that might have been used for picking up intelligence information on North Korea, plotted the operation for the Nobel Peace Prize that Kim Dae-Jung (DJ) finally won in December 2000 after years of trying to wangle the trophy.
Before moving to the United States with his family, Kim Ki-Sam had resigned from the NIS two weeks after the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced DJ as the winner. Ki-Sam’s resignation from the NIS on Oct. 28, 2000, was an almost unheard- of move for any young man inculcated with the belief that service for the agency was a sacred trust that he would keep for the rest of his career.
“It was in a commuter bus in the evening that I heard the news from the radio that [the] Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo had announced that DJ would receive the award in December 2000.” Kim recalled. “They eventually succeeded in their mission. So many emotions crossed my mind.”
Kim Ki-Sam, knowing what he did, had no desire to stay on through all the cheering and back-patting around the agency while DJ went on to accept the award to worldwide acclaim.
DJ was “doing terrible things for the sake of his own vanity . . . I just could not serve him anymore . . . I could not stand what the Kim Dae-Jung government has done to my country,” he told Monthly Chosun, South Korea’s leading magazine, with sales at that time of around 100,000 copies per issue.
“As an NIS officer, I had a sense of shame to serve a president whom I cannot agree with. I felt ashamed of the facts that I would lower my head only for salary.”
From that day on, Kim Ki- Sam began digging up evidence of the connections of Kim Dae-Jung’s regime, tracing the footsteps of DJ’s people as closely as possible. …
His presence in the NIS office at the outset of the Nobel Prize Project, the name of the special operation team organized to pursue the Nobel Peace Prize for Kim Dae-Jung, gave him an understanding of the basic facts. “I wanted to let the truth be known to the people in my country as well as in the world,” he said.
“The NP Project was run in extreme security. The facts I revealed were only part of it.”
One could hardly blame the NIS for having brought charges against Kim Ki-Sam for revealing its innermost secrets. Nor could one necessarily blame Kim Dae-Jung for having wanted to bring about North-South rapprochement by meeting Kim Jong-Il. He may have had no idea that untold millions, if not billions, would finance a nuclear program in which North Korea was to conduct two underground nuclear tests while planning a third one as a sure way to show that Kim Jong-Un, his late father’s chosen heir, would be a strong leader like his father and his grandfather, the long- ruling Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994.
What better way for the youthful Jong-Un to assert himself than at the behest of the coterie of aging generals who held the real power?
Kim Ki-Sam’s view, of course, was that his countrymen, and the world at large, had a right to know the truth: the Summit was bought at enormous cost in terms of money and, finally, the security of a region facing a rising danger of nuclear holocaust. Journalist Donald Kirk got involved in the drama when Kim Ki-Sam poured out his notes for Kirk’s book, Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae-Jung and Sunshine, published shortly after Kim Dae-Jung’s death in 2009.
Ki-Sam thus provided a unique perspective on modern Korean history that was sorely lacking in previous research on DJ’s life and times. The sad paradox was that DJ battled heroically for democracy in South Korea while glossing over, totally ignoring, or in a sense possibly encouraging North Korea’s strategy for dominance over the Korean Peninsula.
Shortly after Kim Jong-Il died on Dec. 17, 2011, The Workers’ Party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, cited the nuclear program as the “greatest legacy” of 17 years of tyranny by the man the North Korean media called their “Dear Leader.”
Kim Jong-Il could not have nurtured that program as he had without tremendous funding from South Korea— funding he should have invested in food and medicine for his people, who were suffering from hunger and disease on an unimaginable scale.
In view of the information and insights from Kim Ki-Sam, Kirk was glad to testify as an “expert witness” at his immigration hearing before Judge Honeyman. The judge summarized Kirk’s testimony in his ruling, saying that Kirk believed “Korean authorities were most angered that a former NIS member betrayed the Service by revealing state secrets.”
Officials did not blame Kirk “as an enemy of the state,” the judge noted in his summation, but “objected to the fact” that Kim Ki-Sam had “provided secret information to Mr. Kirk.”
Moreover, the judge noted, Kirk had “provided testimony that individuals sympathetic to North Korean refugees in China have been targeted by North Korea.” There was, said the judge, “at least a ten percent chance” that Kim Ki-Sam “[would] be targeted by North Korean agents for his highly public criticism” of the North Korean regime.
The judge concluded, “Therefore, Respondent meets his burden of demonstrating that the persecution he fears is on account of a statutory ground, namely his political opinion.”
One puzzling aspect of the case was the intensity with which the U.S. government fought against asylum for Kim Ki-Sam.
Pamela Ransome, a veteran “assistant chief counsel” for the Department of Homeland Security, was deputized to contest the application.
Kim had an equally experienced “accredited representative,” Janet Hinshaw-Thomas, who had stood by hundreds of asylum applicants. Besides calling Kirk as a witness, she also called on Suzanne Scholte, president of the Defense Forum Foundation in Washington, whom the judge quoted as saying that “anybody who speaks out for the human rights of North Korean people becomes an enemy” of the North Korean regime. “Kim Ki-Sam,” Scholte said, “would be a credible danger to the North Korean government because he exposed the flow of money” from South to North Korea.
Why, then, did the U.S. government pour such resources, over such a prolonged period, into a vain attempt at denying asylum to Kim Ki-Sam and his family? Judge Honeyman, in his summary of Kirk’s testimony, said that Kirk believed “the United States government objected” under “political pressure from the South Korean government.”