Defector grills South Korean official on his pro-North background

by WorldTribune Staff, August 4, 2020

At a recent confirmation hearing for South Korean Unification Minister nominee Lee In-Young, a high-profile defector from North Korea who is now a member of South Korea’s parliament had a series of tough questions for Lee on his links to the ideology of communist North Korea.

Despite the disapproval from the main opposition party, liberal President Moon Jae-In approved Lee as the Unification Minister on July 27.

Thae Yong-Ho, left, questions Unification Minister nominee Lee In-Young at a hearing on July 23.

“Lee was the former number two person in the Anti-American Youth Association, which was the underground organization that provided leadership to Jeondaehyup, the violent, radical 1980s student organization based upon North Korea’s Juche Ideology,” Tara O reported for East Asia Research Center on Aug. 2.

During Lee’s hearing at the National Assembly on July 23, Assemblyman Thae Yong-Ho, who was North Korea’s former deputy Ambassador to the UK before defecting to South Korea four years ago, asked a question on many Korean minds in a “free” nation with no conservative media: Does Lee still adhere to Juche Ideology or not?

Juche is the official ideology of North Korea, described by the government as “Kim Il-Sung’s original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought.”

Lee In-Young founded Jeondaehyup (National Council of Student Representatives) and became its first president. Jeondaehyup is well known for its members adhering to the Juche Ideology, Tara O’s report said.

During the hearing, Thae addressed Lee and noted:

I was born in 1962 and you were born in 1964, I began university in 1980 in Pyongyang and you began university in 1984. In the mid-1980s and afterwards, when I was in North Korea, I followed and believed Juche Ideology. What North Korea taught then was that there is a very large number of Juche followers in South Korea. And there is an organization called Jeondaeyup. Every morning in front of Kim Il-Sung’s portrait, its members pledged their devotion to the creed of liberating South Joseon (South Korea) from the U.S. empire’s colonialism.

Lee interrupted to say: “I’ll think of it as perhaps (you) in North Korea not knowing it correctly.”

Thae asked: “So did such an act occur or not?”

Lee responded: “Such an act didn’t occur, as far as I’m concerned.”

Thae asked: “You say that didn’t occur?”

Lee responded: “I, Jeondaehyup Chairman, everyday, putting a picture of, uh, Kim Il-Sung, (pause), and pledging loyalty and following Juche Ideology – I absolutely don’t have such a memory.”

Thae added: “OK, so it’s fake news that North Korea fabricated. Is that what you’re saying?”

Lee responded: “But, well, an exaggerated story is how I see it.”

Thae continued to press Lee on whether he had given up the Juche Ideology but similarly elusive responses.

“It was extremely difficult for Lee In-Young to make clear whether he gave up his devotion to Juche Ideology or not, ” Tara O wrote. “He did finally say ‘Even at that time, (I) was not a Juche ideology shinbongja nor am I now – well, that’s a point I make clear.’ [the term shinbongja means follower, believer, adherent, devotee.] It appears the emphasis is on him making a statement, rather than saying he is not a shinbongja of Juche Ideology. Additionally, it appears he rejects the term ‘shinbongja.’ Thus, it is difficult to tell whether he rejects the Juche Ideology or not.”

Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea defend Lee.

Yoon Young-Chan said: “Does he (Thae) think he can say anything just because he lives in the Republic of Korea, which guarantees freedom of speech? He needs to learn a bit more about liberal democracy.”

Ko Min-Jung, formally the Blue House spokesperson, questioned Thae’s loyalty to the Republic of Korea and its ideals by stating, “I wonder whether he (Thae) is really a citizen of the Republic of Korea … There can’t be any more outdated witch hunt-style ideological verifications.”

Some comments on social media praised Thae’s handling of the questioning:

“We must verify the ideology of senior government officials. Our country’s system is free democracy. People who oppose our system are not appropriate to be senior government officials. You did well, Assemblyman Thae Yong-ho.”

“The fact that he can’t say he discarded the Juche ideology means he is announcing in front of the public that he is a communist. Now all citizens know Lee In-Young is a communist.”

“Isn’t ideological verification a priority, precisely because it is for the position of the Unification Minister? Hypocritical regime. Change is the answer.”

“Lee In-Young even made a campaign promise to turn this country into a socialist society. Then who is the real communist? Republic of Korea citizens all know that Lee In-young is the core of pro-North Korea Jusapa.”

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