Korea Defector Calls North's Policy Insane

SEOUL, South Korea -- In a bid to win freedom for a top-ranking North Korean defector in Beijing, South Korea on Thursday released a letter from the man, describing the agony of his flight from a starving nation he said had gone mad.

Hwang Jang-yop, 73, a pillar of Pyongyang's Stalinist establishment, was trapped in a South Korean diplomatic mission in the Chinese capital as Seoul and Pyongyang used pressure tactics on China to resolve the crisis.

China deployed troops around the building, partly to stop North Koreans lurking in cars outside from bursting in.

And in an apparent sign of impatience with Seoul's agressive diplomacy, Chinese officials avoided meeting an envoy from Seoul's foreign minister.

Seoul ordered heightened vigilance by its military, and Pyongyang warned of unspecified countermeasures against South Korea, accusing Seoul authorities of kidnapping Hwang.

"I tormented and tormented over this," Hwang said in the four-page, signed note written in the diplomatic compound, where he arrived with an aide by taxi Wednesday.

"Starting with my family, people will judge that I'm mad. But the question is: Am I the only mad person?"

Hwang attacked those in North Korea who continued to treat South Korea as the enemy and talked of turning it into a "sea of fire" while proposing national unification.

"How could you regard this as the behavior of sane people?," asked Hwang, one of the architects of Pyongyang's "Juche" philosophy of fanatic self-reliance and now the most senior official ever to seek refuge in South Korea. "Also, how could you call people sane who loudly talk about building an ideal society for workers and farmers while workers and farmers are starving?"

China found itself torn between loyalty to a socialist comrade and a new capitalist friend pouring in investment, and diplomats said it was likely Seoul would prevail in the end.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoo Chong-ha was scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen in Singapore on Friday morning to lobby for Hwang's safe passage.

The two Koreas traded accusations of cloak-and-dagger treachery among the tree-shaded avenues of Beijing's sedate diplomatic district.

Seoul rejected as "preposterous" Pyongyang's assertion that Hwang was a kidnap victim and complained that North Koreans had tried to barge in to the compound during the night.

Adding weight to suspicions South Korea may have had advance notice of Hwang's flight, Seoul intelligence authorities released a family portrait showing the official at home with his well-dressed wife, son and grandchildren.

In the foreground of the photo, a round dining table is laden with tropical fruits, an unimaginable luxury for most North Koreans, who have been driven by food shortages into foraging for edible grass and roots.

Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said Hwang was apparently a marked man when he was in Tokyo this month for a conference on "Juche."

Hashimoto told reporters Hwang's bodyguards may have been tipped off to his plans and shadowed him more closely towards the end of his visit.