American journalist angered Seoul by exposing huge payment to North Korea for ‘Sunshine’ summit

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DonKirk31By 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”.

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.


South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung with North Korea’s Kimg-Jong-Il in Pyongyang in June 2000.

Clearly, South Korean officials, while Kim Dae-Jung (DJ) was president, wanted to go after the person who had done the most to expose the dark side of his sunshine policy of reconciliation. They appeared to have had no trouble enlisting the support of their friends in the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and the State Department. …

[In view of the information and insights from that person, former South Korea National Intelligence Services officer Kim Ki-Sam, Don Kirk was glad to testify as an “expert witness” at his immigration hearing before Judge Honeyman.]

Judge Honeyman wrapped up his summary of Kirk’s remarks by saying that Kirk had “testified” that he was “not being paid to testify.” Nor did Kirk pay Kim Ki-Sam for the wealth of information he supplied for Kirk’s book or articles. Kirk was glad to have done all that was possible to support his case. Kim’s material, the judge quoted from Kirk’s testimony, “gave a whole point” to the book.

“Surprisingly,” as retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam veteran James G. Zumwalt noted, the decision “received little attention.” Zumwalt, younger son of Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, former chief of naval operations, who had commanded U.S. naval forces in Vietnam, believed “the decision is big for two reasons.”

Not only was the asylum seeker from South Korea, but also, he wrote, “the underlying facts as to why he sought asylum puts the lie to what supporters of South Korea’s decade- long appeasement policy toward North Korea hail as its greatest moment.”

Zumwalt summarized Ki-Sam’s dilemma: “The concern for his safety stemmed not from persecution at the hands of a vengeful North Korea but a vengeful South.

For a citizen of an ally to be granted asylum by the U.S. is highly unusual in its own right. But Kim had reason to fear for his life — for he had gone public with evidence of major fraud perpetrated by Seoul upon the international community. It was done solely in the interests of furthering the legacy and wealth of one man — at great cost to his fellow countrymen.”

In fact, Kirk was the first to have exposed the payoffs over the Summit. In an article published by the International Herald Tribune (IHT) on Jan. 31, 2001, Kirk revealed the transfer of several hundred million dollars to persuade Kim Jong- Il to agree to receive DJ in Pyongyang in June 2000.

The article, which Kirk wrote at the request of IHT editor David Ignatius, focused on Lim Dong- Won as the central operative in forming DJ’s sunshine policy of reconciliation.

“The South Korean Spy Chief Who Paved the Way for Thaw with North,” ran the headline across the top of page two of the IHT. The spy chief in question was Lim Dong-Won, whom DJ had appointed as director of the NIS in order to bring about the Summit and also to promote his campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Although the payoff remains unconfirmed,” Kirk wrote, “it was believed that it was necessary in a society where bribery, often in the guise of gift giving, is a longstanding tradition in both Koreas.”

The mere mention of a huge financial transfer to North Korea was deeply upsetting to Korean officials. A Blue House spokesman said menacingly, “We take extra care when dealing with inaccurate and misleading articles appearing [in] foreign mass media because they are guests,” but the IHT article “went too far” and “we are considering all options.”

The local media saw the case as a test of “how far the government is willing to go in order to correct what it thinks are wrong reports in foreign press,”

In the end, Kim Myong- Sik, assistant minister in charge of the Korean Overseas Information Service (KOIS), called Kirk into his office and told him, politely, that he was “making a lot of trouble.” Kirk officially was viewed as “distinctly skeptical” and “hard to persuade,” but Kim said he did not believe in the old system of expelling or denying visas for correspondents.

Instead, he wrote a lengthy letter to the IHT, which published it without apology or retraction, denying any such deal. (Kim Myong-Sik, saving face, would later say that the publication of the letter was “tantamount to a retraction.”)

The mystery, though, was what the South Koreans were telling their American friends about Kim Ki-Sam. Had the NIS gone to contacts at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asking them to block Kim’s asylum application? Or was the State Department, in the interest of preserving relations with a military ally, responding to a request by the South Korean foreign ministry?

Who among the Americans had pressed to have the case heard in an immigration court, where the U.S. government rarely loses? The answers to those questions were as elusive as the exact amount that South Korea gave the North to get Kim Jong-Il to invite Kim Dae-Jung to Pyongyang. No South Korean government has commented on the significance of the asylum granted to Kim Ki-Sam.

For more than a decade, South Korean authorities have avoided saying a thing about Kim Ki-Sam’s struggle for asylum. One powerful politician and tycoon, however, expressed his concerns in a column published by Dong A Ilbo, a leading newspaper.

Chung Mong- Joon, former chairman of the Grand National Party (since renamed Sae-nu-ri or New Frontier Party) ranks as one of Korea’s wealthiest men thanks to his ownership of a controlling stake in Hyundai Heavy Industries, the shipbuilder founded by his legendary father Chung Ju-Yung. He was characteristically blunt in his remarks about the case.

“The U.S. court decision makes us face an ‘inconvenient truth’ on our North Korean policy, which we had kept undiscovered,” he wrote. “I cannot help but ask how our government behaved in the court process and why this disgraceful ruling came out.”

Chung was dumfounded. “Political asylum,” he noted, “is in itself a big problem between strong allies such as South Korea and the U.S.”

Chung Mong-Joon’s indignation mounted as he considered the implications of the ruling. “The problem is that we are avoiding discussing these issues,” he wrote, “Our reality is that the person who raises these issues has to go abroad for asylum. Mr. Kim said he would come back any time if the government investigates correctly. However, our government denied his passport renewal two times, and the charge of violation of the NIS personnel law is still pending for many years.”

Considering the circumstances, said Chung, “further testimony and investigation might be inevitable.” Chung saw the entire case as a lesson for further study. “We have not made any in- depth and objective discussion or assessment on the effect or influence of the Sunshine policy,” he went on. “Mr. Kim’s case urges us to adopt a more responsible posture on North Korean policy, on which our national fate is at stake.”

He concluded in an emotional tone, quoting “Mr. Kim Ki-Sam’s voice” as having said, “We have to pay any sacrifice in confronting the cruel North Korean regime, while embracing our wretched North Korean brethren at any cost.” Those words, Chung wrote, “still echo in my ears.”

See also:

Part 1: How South Korea’s Kim Dae-Jung bought his Peace Prize and financed Kim Jong-Il’s nuclear program, Feb. 2

Part 2: South Korean intelligence officer had to fight both Seoul and DHS for asylum, Feb. 12

Part 3: Politicized intelligence, South Korean style, Feb. 12