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(LEAD) Late top N. Korean defector to be buried at national cemetery

All Headlines 11:36 October 13, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with quote, details)

SEOUL, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect to South Korea, who died in Seoul three days ago, will be laid to rest at the South's national cemetery, officials said Wednesday.

The decision, widely expected after the South Korean government decided to posthumously confer a meritorious medal on Hwang, was made at a meeting of the Ministry of Veterans and Patriots Affairs earlier in the day, ministry officials said.

"After deliberation, we decided to bury the body of the late Hwang at the National Cemetery in Daejeon because he was eligible for such burial by law," said a ministry official.

The government decided Tuesday to deliver the highest "Order of Civil Merit" medal to the late Hwang, paving the way for his body to be buried at the national cemetery in Daejeon, about 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

Hwang's body will be laid to rest at the national cemetery at 3 p.m. on Thursday, according to the official.

Memorials for the man once labeled the mentor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il drew thousands in South Korea as the five-day mourning period continued, including the chief of staff for President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik.

Hwang, 87, was found dead in the bathroom of a government-owned safe house in southern Seoul on Sunday. Government investigators have concluded that the death was due to natural causes, possibly a heart attack.

The architect of North Korea's ruling philosophy "juche," or self-reliance, shocked the world in 1997 when he defected to South Korea via China. At the time, he was serving as a party secretary for international affairs and ranked 24th in the North's power hierarchy.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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