[Book Review] Veiled Dialogues with Kim Jong Il Revealed

[imText1]“I (Kim Jong Il) often visit the websites of the Blue House, the National Intelligence Service and the Ministry of Unification of South Korea.”

Lim Dong Won, a core architect of policy towards North Korea during the Kim Dae Jung administration, the “evangelist of the Sunshine Policy” and a director of the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, revealed as-yet unknown stories related to the June 15 Inter-Korea Summit and North-South relations through his memoirs, “Peacemaker: South-North Relations and the North Korean Nuclear Issue over the past 20 years (Jungang Books, 2008),” published on the 10th.

Lim Dong Won unveiled the dialogues that occurred between Kim Jong Il and himself when he visited Pyongyang as the former director of the NIS for the first Inter-Korea Summit in 2000, and as a South Korean delegate in 2002. According to Lim’s memoir, Kim Jong Il often visits the websites of the Blue House (www.president.go.kr) and the National Intelligence Service (www.nis.go.kr) and enjoys watching South Korean dramas and movies.

“I was invited to a dinner party with National Defense Chairman Kim Jong Il in Baekhwanwon, Chodaeso in Pyongyang when I visited North Korea as a delegate on April 4, 2002. Chairman Kim showed me his interest in South Korean popular culture and stock markets. ‘I often look around at the websites of the Blue House, the NIS and the Ministry of the Unification. On the site of the Blue House, information about former presidents is well compiled. When I visit and stay overnight in local military bases, it is convenient to watch South Korean TV news through the Internet.

“‘Joint Security Area (Myung Film Co., 2000) is a good movie. I showed it to the generals of the military and cadres of the Party,’ said Kim Jong Il. Then all of sudden he asked People’s Army General Lee Myung Su and secretary Kim Yong Soon how many series of a South Korean historical drama, “Petticoat Government” they had watched. He said that ‘South Korea produces historical dramas well. I’ve instructed the Director of the Propaganda Department of the Party to learn the South Korean way of making historical dramas.’

“He said that ‘Kim Yeon Ja (a South Korean female singer acting in Japan) is coming to Pyongyang for a performance, so I specially requested six South Korean pop songs including Cho Yong Pil’s song, “The cafe in the winter,” and Na Hoon Ah’s songs.’ At this dinner, Chairman Kim questioned me on my perspective on the Presidential Election of South Korea and said ‘I want to meet Park Geun Hye once.’”

Lim Dong Won also revealed that at the Inter-Korea Summit in 2000, Kim Jong Il agreed with Kim Dae Jung’s comment, “Even after the unification, the U.S. military presence in South Korea will be needed.” The former president Kim asked him “Why are you insisting through your media on the withdrawal of the U.S. military from the South?” and Kim Jong Il replied to him that he wanted President Kim to understand it was just to soothe the peoples’ feeling.

According to the book, when Kim Dae Jung visited Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace, where Kim Il Sung’s body was laid to rest, Kim Jong Il commented that he would have made Kim Young Nam, the Supreme People’s Committee’s Permanent Chairperson, worship former South Korean president Park Chung Hee at his grave. Kim Jong Il also revealed his thinking about Park Chung Hee, saying that “Although President Park’s Constitution for Revitalizing Reform and political suppression of the people were bad, his achievements such as the Saemaeul Movement [which was a societal reformation movement in the 1970s in South Korea], and economic development are highly valuable.”

Regarding to the path to unification, Kim Jong Il said that “President Kim [Dae Jung] told him that it would take around 10 or 20 years to complete a proper unification, as I understand it, but I think it will take 40 or 50 years to achieve unification. I don’t mean to make a unified country through a federal system right now. The federal system I mentioned involves the North and the South keeping their own powers over their militaries and over diplomacy and gradually promoting unification.”

Kim Jong Il even expressed his gratitude to South Korea for fertilizer, saying that “Our people appreciate that. 100,000 tons of fertilizer can bring forth 300,000 tons of grains, which means it can increase production threefold.”

When Lim asked Kim Jong Il to visit Seoul in April of 2002, Kim Jong Il said that “In fact, I tried to visit Seoul in the spring of 2001, but the situation was changed due to George Bush, who looked on us as an enemy, being elected President of the U.S. Furthermore, the situation of the South was such that the leftists demanded that the North apologize to them for the Korean War and the explosion of KAL, and my visiting Seoul would have deteriorated the relations between the North and the South. Therefore, my close associates held me back from going to the South.”

According to his book, Lim revealed that a hotline was set up in 2000 for the first Inter-Korea Summit and was used when crises occured between the South and the North. For example in June 2002, when a battle occurred in the West Sea, Kim Jong Il used the hotline to call Kim Dae Jung and express regret, saying “the incident happened accidently.”

Former director Lim released dialogues between Kim Dae Jung and President Bush that occurred when Kim Dae Jung visited the U.S. At the summit, President Bush trenchantly criticized Kim Jong Il, according to his memoir.

He also looked back on James Kelley’s visit to North Korea which stirred up the 2nd North Korean nuclear crisis. Lim expected the negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea to progress well through Kelley’s visit. As a matter of fact though, he visited North Korea in order to reveal suspicions regarding North Korea’s High Enriched Uranium programs, and ultimately the second nuclear crisis was brought about. According to Lim’s memoir, “Kelley said right before his visit to Pyongyang, that he was going to Pyongyang in order to report to Kim Jong Il that he must dismantle the HEU program. After his visit, he revealed that he was astonished at North Korea’s comments and attitude.”

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