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The men behind N.K. atomic bomb

Korea Herald / Annie I. Bang | October 13 2006

Who are driving North Korea's nuclear ambitions? Experts in Seoul point to three hawkish military generals whose influence has led the North's leader onto a dangerous path. They also mention two revered scientists who laid the groundwork for nuclear technology in the North.

As the world ponders over North Korea's alleged first-ever nuclear test on Monday, experts in Seoul say the North's leader Kim Jong-il might have received pressure from his close generals to go ahead with the test.

The generals are Park Jae-kyung, Hyun Chul-hee and Lee Myong-su. They belong to the North Korean People's Army and often appear in the North Korean media standing next to Kim.

"It is very likely that the three and other military hard-liners set the stage for enforcing the nuclear bomb test, and then Kim Jong-il ratified the procedure," said Nam Sung-wook, a North Korean studies professor at Korea University.

"Park and Hyun have insisted that North Korea must possess nuclear weapons in order to uphold its social and military structures," Nam said.

As North Korea engages in its military-first policy, observers say its military strength is now stronger than ever.

North Korea's bomb was made possible by noted scientists such as the late Do Sang-rok, who defected from South Korea to the North in 1946.

"The first-class treatment received by professor Do from Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il tells us that they held a strong interest in developing nuclear weapons," a government source said.

Do was born in 1903 in North Korea and died in 1990 after publishing several research papers on nuclear matters and nuclear energy.

He had taught at Seoul National University before Korea declared its independency from Japanese colonization in 1945. He then left for Pyongyang and taught at the North's top Kim Il-sung University.

Do was beloved by the North Korean regime's founder Kim Il-sung and his son Jong-il. He received numerous awards, including the Kim Il Sung Award in 1973 for his contribution in nuclear development.

Aside from Do, there is another renowned scientist - Seo Sang-guk, a physics professor at Kim Il-sung University.

Born in 1938, Seo has played a leading role in the development of nuclear bombs and taught at Kim Il-sung University after studying abroad in Russia in the 1960s.

When Kim Jong-il celebrated his 60th birthday in 1998, North Korean media reported that he had sent a prize to Seo for his contribution to the nation's development in the field of science.

It is reported that Seo is also a secret member of the North's defense committee and deals with its nuclear plans and policies.

With the North's hard-line position becoming stronger, experts say it has become more difficult to deal with its nuclear ambitions.

Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy, who recently visited Pyongyang, said the financial sanctions against North Korea have made the nuclear issue more complicated.

In May, North Korea abruptly canceled a test-run for the inter-Korean railways, citing military security concerns.

And the Seoul government explained the North's military authorities have never been happy with implementing inter-Korean agreements.

The North's hard-liners have also been opposed to the inter-Korean businesses in the North's border city of Gaeseong and at Mount Geumgang, saying the North has nothing to benefit from them.


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