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Ex-North Korea official who defected dies in Seoul

SEOUL, South Korea - An intellectual force behind the philosophy of self-reliance that guided North Korea and a top official in the Workers' Party that still rules the communist nation has died.

Hwang Jang-yop's naked body was found Sunday morning in a bathtub at his home in Seoul, police said. Foul play was not initially suspected, but an autopsy was planned. Hwang was 87.

Hwang graduated from the elite university named for North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and was personally close to Kim. He tutored Kim's son, Kim Jong Il, who rose to become the nation's current leader.

Then, in 1997, while visiting China, Hwang sought asylum in South Korea - triggering a five-week diplomatic standoff and earning him scorn from the North Korean regime and the epithet "human scum" in its media.

Safely in South Korea, he spoke about the danger posed not just to the Korean peninsula but to the world by the dictatorship in the North, and said trying to persuade the North to give up its nuclear ambition was hopeless so long as Kim was in power.

Since his defection, Hwang had lived in the South Korean capital under tight security amid fears that North Korean agents might try to take revenge. He wrote books and delivered speeches condemning Kim's government as authoritarian.

Two North Korean army majors, who had reportedly pretended to defect, were sentenced to prison in South Korea in July for plotting to assassinate him. North Korea has denied the plot, accusing South Korea of staging it to intensify sentiment against the North.

Hwang rarely traveled abroad because of the concerns for his security. He did visit the United States in 2003 and in March of this year, and also went to Japan in April. He used the opportunities to criticize the North.- AP

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