Dr. Hwang Jang-Yop, Highest Ranking North Korean Defector, Dead at 87

Hwang also brought information of significant military and strategic value. For example, he said, contradicting conventional wisdom, that the North's likely strategy in the event of war would involve a threat to attack Japan:

The North believes they can win a war and if the U.S. intervenes they have a plan to attack and destroy Japan. The strategy is to occupy South Korea in a "blitzkrieg" maneuver and then threaten the U.S. with the annihilation of Japan.

One can only shudder when contemplating how the Obama administration might respond to such a ruthless gambit. In addition, Hwang corroborated, from his own personal knowledge, earlier reports that Pakistan reached an agreement with North Korea to supply the North with fissile material (highly enriched uranium) in exchange for missile technology.

Hwang's transition to a life of freedom in South Korea was not without problems. He was awarded a government post, then lost it, largely because his hardline stance against the North did not sit well with the liberal Kim Dae-Jung administration, which at the time was pursuing the "Sunshine Policy" of attempted reconciliation with the DPRK. Although Hwang found many sympathizers in the ROK, he was also appalled by the prevalence of gullible apologists for the Kim regime in South Korean society, including radical left-wing student groups which essentially act as tools of the North. (Universities in the ROK are dominated by left-wing academics whose favorite sport is to demonize the U.S., while studiously ignoring the infinitely greater crimes of the Kim family -- a situation that will sound all too familiar to American readers.)

Nevertheless, Dr. Hwang, a philosopher in the true sense, devoted his final years to a serious examination of the great problems facing the Korean nation. He founded an NGO, the Committee for Democratization of North Korea, dedicated to achieving freedom for the 23 million people trapped in the North. He wrote constantly and held frequent press conferences where he assessed developments, such as Kim Jong-Il's recent visits to China and the apparent coronation of Kim Jong-Eun.

His accomplishments over the last decade were significant. For example, his memoir, released in 2006, is a simultaneously engrossing and chilling look at life inside the very highest levels of the North Korean regime. He was a frequent contributor to www.dailynk.com, which has become an unprecedented source of accurate information about developments inside North Korea. Significantly, information has begun to flow in the other direction, from the burgeoning exile network back into the North. This will, in time, undermine the web of deception which underlies the Kim dictatorship.

Hwang Jang-Yop was a great man, one who literally sacrificed everything for the chance to free the long-suffering North Korean people. His deeply felt  advocacy for freedom, democracy, and human rights was only made more convincing by the fact that he, like George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, and many others, changed sides. Although he fell short of his ultimate goal of seeing the Kim dictatorship ended during his lifetime, we can best honor his memory by following his advice to remain vigilant against North Korean aggression, maintaining our alliance with South Korea, and taking every opportunity to widen the cracks in the North Korean system. Americans would do well to take heed of the warning Hwang issued in 2005:

Internationally, politicians and intellectuals of the victorious countries [in the Cold War] including the U.S have started to think that the free world [and its] democratic system would prevail forever and have neglected the fight against dictatorships. They have underestimated the power of dictatorships and the anti-democratic forces, thinking that they can handle any problems with ease. ... Democracy has not completed its mission yet. ... It is a big mistake to consider that [the] democratic era has been achieved already.

Finally, just for a moment, consider the fact that the DPRK regime murdered or imprisoned Dr. Hwang's entire family simply because he decided to leave. If a government that would do this cannot be called "evil," then the word has no meaning. Indeed, the Kim family's crimes are so numerous, so diverse, and so monstrous -- self-inflicted famine, the detention and killing of millions, forced abortions on North Korean women repatriated from China, the persecution of religion, especially Christianity (nauseatingly, Christians in North Korea are forced to worship images of the Kims), assassinating enemies abroad, blowing up airliners, kidnapping Japanese schoolchildren, counterfeiting foreign currency, selling narcotics, the list is endless. It would be more appropriate to regard the country as the world's largest organized-crime base than to treat it as a legitimate nation-state. Indeed, considering its tragicomic hereditary succession, North Korea increasingly resembles a bizarre hybrid of monarchy and mafia more than it does a Soviet-style Communist system.

The truth is that the Kim family are scum. Why mince words? They have no more right to control half of Korea than Hitler had to control Austria, or the USSR had to control Eastern Europe. But the free world still awaits the leader bold enough to imagine that their odious regime could be removed rather than accommodated.

Where is Ronald Reagan when we need him?