|▲ The 50th anniversary of General Association of Korean Residents in Japan|
There is one most unforgettable figure in my experience in Pyongyang for a decade and half.
One day in Pyongyang, Roh Chul Soo, counsel in the Overseas Koreans Aid Commission, asked me to have a dinner together. He led me to a small remote restaurant, a traditional Korean style house. As soon as he guided me into a room, Roh left the restaurant. Then, there was a middle-aged man in the room. He welcomed me and just two of us started to have dinner.
The person introduced himself as a senior official of the KWP, but never revealed his name. Since he seemed already aware of my identity well, I did not feel necessary to introduce myself. After exchanging a few cups of alcohol, awkward silence was broken and we started to talk quite friendly.
I was curious why he treated me to a dinner separately. He responded that the Dear Leader (Kim Jong Il) wanted to thank me for generous contribution to the fatherland. All the while, he habitually mentioned the Dear Leader and the Great Leader (Kim Il Sung) and their careful concerns.
He then expressed his desire to “help” Korean Americans and showed his worried feeling over the “hard lives” of the Koreans-abroad living under American Imperialism. Also he asked me how to help the “suppressed Koreans” in the States.
I became nervous and wondering what was his purpose of telling me such. As if he read my mind, the party official tried to ease me. “Don’t be strained. I just want to ask how many Korean people are living in America and what kind of lifestyle they have.”
And he harangued about the Great Leader’s prowess from the partisan war against the Japanese Empire to the Korean War and the history of North Korea’s aid to the Korean-Japanese.
In the end, he asked me for help in building a General Association of Korean Residents, like one in Japan, of the Korean American community. I finally realized the real reason that I was invited to a dinner.
I explained him why it was implausible to build a “Chosen Soren” (a pro-NK organization among the Korean-Japanese) in America. All of the ethnic Koreans immigrated to the United States to seek a better life or education of their children. Nobody departed South Korea anymore because the country was poor. Unlike Korean Americans, most of the ethnic Koreans in Japan left their home country during Japanese colonization period when Korea was a deprived piece of land.
Moreover, pro-NK Korean-Japanese were national of North Korea, whereas all of the Korean-Americans were either U.S. citizens or South Korean ones.
Even with a few existing pro-North Korean people, such formal organization was unlikely to form since the U.S. government would never allow it.
So I advised him to cooperate with the visiting Korean Americans first to improve North Korea’s economy. I told him it was more urgent to have an economic assistance from the overseas Koreans than constructing ideological/ political organization of them.
He reluctantly agreed with me. And the dinner resumed.
North Korea had just opened its door to the overseas Koreans by that time. It was completely foolish to embark on that kind of political operation in America. I was deeply disappointed by the senior party official’s irrationality.