Dear Dr. Nam,
I cannot believe it.
A man who, just two weeks ago, expressed to me his firm convictions in the prospects of a North Korean democracy over a beer, has suddenly passed away so.
I cannot believe that someone who so recently told me, “Kim Jong Il’s regime can’t survive even a few years”, died today.
It was the winter of 1999 when I first met you in Seoul. Thanks to your help, I was able to meet and interview a number of North Korean refugees. At that time, you knew the importance of the North Korean refugees issue and had already worked out a variety of ways to improve the situation.
For your efforts, I am thankful. They give me the courage to face the reality of North Korea’s inhumane society. The more I know about the North Korean regime, the stronger my conviction for North Korean democracy becomes.
Dr. Nam, you are a pioneer of the North Korean democratization movement.
When few people appreciated your work, you sacrificed your comfortable life as a physician to go everywhere from the U.S. to Korea and China, to assist North Korean people and promote human rights and democracy in their homeland.
I remember the first reported news of your work. The Washington Post ran a headline on February 10, 1999 about North Korean refugees because of what you had worked out: initiating the campaign for North Korean human rights in the US. Five years later, 2004. The North Korean Human Rights Act passed through the U.S. Congress. Afterwards, I saw how happy it made you. Those who know the process involved in making the law, still appreciate how hard you worked to promote it.
Recently, you paid great attention to a changing Korean society whose public opinion continues to be pretty negative on North Korean human rights.
Whenever you met me, you would always stress that “it’s only Korea we have to change. While the U.S., Japan, and Europe are all concerned about North Korean human rights, only South Korea is indifferent to it.” You were spending all your time and energy in overcoming the indifference of South Korea to North Korean human rights deficits.
Despite your great efforts and achievements, your name is not well known to the world. You are the type of person who makes things doable behind the stage rather than putting your name on everything and taking credit. Instead of concerning yourself with reputation, you desired to be the stepping stones on which the North Korean democracy and human rights movements can make meaningful progress. Therefore, you are looked up to as a beacon of real leadership to young people.
Honorable Dr. Nam!
Our young people will follow the path you pioneered for North Korean democracy, freedom, and liberation of North Korean people. We will do our best for you to look down on the Korean peninsula able to smile.
Please, rest in peace.
June 8, 2005