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Seoul to dispose of former defector's safe house: report

SEOUL, Tuesday 12 October 2010 (AFP) - South Korea may sell the Seoul "safe house" where a top North Korean defector lived under police guard, following media exposure of its location following his death, a report said Tuesday.

"Discussions will take place on disposing of this house," an unidentified intelligence official was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

"This house can no longer be used as a safe house" because of the media reports following Hwang Jang-Yop's death on Sunday, the official said.

The National Intelligence Service had no immediate comment.

Hwang, a former tutor to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, became one of the regime's bitterest critics after defecting in 1997 -- the highest-ranking official ever to come South.

The 87-year-old was found dead in his bathtub. Police said there were no immediate signs of foul play, despite earlier death threats against the defector.

Real estate agents estimated the large property at Nonhyeondong in southern Seoul's wealthy Gangnam area could fetch some 2.7 million dollars.

Since his death Hwang has been hailed as a hero for speaking out against Pyongyang's regime, despite the threats.

"We regard very highly his efforts... to improve North Korea's human rights situation, overhaul and open its society and reunify the two Koreas," unification ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung said Monday.

The government is "positively" considering a posthumous medal and interment in the national cemetery in the central city of Daejeon, said a spokesman for the public administration and security ministry.

Dongguk University professor Park Sun-Song said, however, it "remains doubtful whether his activities against the North contributed to peace and national reconciliation on the Korean peninsula".

MySinchew 2010.10.12


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