Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Weapons

Living History with Ambassador Chung Chong Wook

Navigating Dangerous Waters: The 1994 North Korean Nuclear Crisis

This Living History interview features Ambassador Chung Chong Wook. Ambassador Chung served as the Republic of Korea’s ambassador to China from 1996 to 1998 and as a senior secretary to President Kim Young-sam for national security and foreign policy from 1993 to 1994. While serving in government, he witnessed and was involved in a series of dramatic and rapid developments in inter-Korean relations and U.S. policy toward North Korea.

In this interview, Ambassador Chung describes his experience serving as senior secretary to the president for national security and foreign policy during the summer of 1994. This period was marked by a series of critical events in U.S.-ROK relations and negotiations over North Korea’s emerging nuclear program. Ambassador Chung also recounts his personal experience serving as ambassador to China when Hwang Jang-yop sought asylum in Beijing in 1997. Hwang Jang-yop was a key figure in the creation of North Korea’s predominant state ideology, “Juche”, and the highest-ranking official to ever defect from the country at that time. Hwang had also previously served as the president of Kim Il-Sung University and secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK). During that crucial period in the late 1990s, Ambassador Chung played an instrumental role in securing Hwang Jang-yop’s safe passage to South Korea. Please see below for more on this unique and personal interview with Ambassador Chung Chong Wook.

Click on the interview questions below to navigate to the relevant answer section in the video.

QUESTION 1: “How did the ROK react to U.S. discussions about a military strike on DPRK in 1994?”

QUESTION 2: “In 1994, Jimmy Carter visited Pyongyang to avert a nuclear crisis. What was the ROK response?”

QUESTION 3: “Were there plans for an inter-Korean summit before Kim Il-Sung died in 1994?”

QUESTION 4: “What was the relationship like between President Bill Clinton and President Kim Young-sam during the summer of 1994?”

QUESTION 5: “What was the South Korean reaction when Kim Il-Sung died in July 1994?”

QUESTION 6: “When Hwang Jang-yop sought asylum how did you secure his passage to South Korea in 1997?”

Ambassador Chung Chong Wook is a distinguished professor and head of the China Research Center at Incheon National University. Previously, Ambassador Chung served as the Republic of Korea ambassador to China from 1996 to 1998 and as a senior secretary to the president of the Republic of Korea for national security and foreign policy from 1993 to 1994. While he has served in a number of senior government positions, Ambassador Chung comes from an academic background. He has taught at Seoul National University as a professor of international politics from 1977 to 1993 where he is currently a professor emeritus. He also served as a visiting professor in the department of government at Harvard University in Spring 2011. He was also a visiting professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore from 2010 to 2011, and a visiting professor at George Washington University and Claremont McKenna College. Ambassador Chung received his B.A. in international relations from Seoul National University and holds a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University.