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In loving memory of Jo Young Sam

By Jo Young Sam |  September 24, 2017

Korea peace and reunification activist, and ardent supporter of President Moon Jae In,  Jo Young Sam died early Wednesday morning, September 20, 2017, after setting himself on fire on Tuesday to protest the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. In a four page letter to President Moon Jae-in Jo wrote:

            “I am a person who genuinely, honestly hoped for the success of the Moon Jae-In administration. Through the success of the Moon Jae-In administration, we could have seen a future for North-South Korean economic partnerships, peace & reunification,  work done to achieve balance in Northeast Asia, and a future for us [Corean] descendants.”

The English language translation of his letter to President Moon Jae In follows.*


Our country only has a future via the success of the Moon Jae-In Administration

President Moon Jae-In, long ago, when I was in Germany, I was the one who has always supported and respected you.

President Moon Jae-In, Let me get to the point right away. THAAD cannot happen. Mr. President, you also know that THAAD will not bring peace, but the tension and the dangers of war.

I have tried to think that you were taking one step back to go two steps forward or you might have a bigger picture planned in your mind. However, by all means, this is not the way to go. Playing hard to get with the all mighty U.S. can never be easy. I understand that. But if you get pushed back from the beginning like this, how will you be able to get back on your feet later?

I am a person who genuinely and honestly hoped for the success of the Moon Jae-In administration. Through the success of the Moon Jae-In administration, we could have seen the future for North-South Korean economic partnerships, peace & reunification, the balance in Northeast Asia, and the future for our [Corean] descendants.

THAAD, for all intents and purposes, will not be a war deterrent nor a protective arm for peace. Having the lowest rate to “match bullet for bullet”, with the THAAD installation, it is more significant that North Korea and China will be placed under the X-Band security radar as an effect of THAAD installation. It is therefore so obvious that the location of THAAD and the neighboring area will be the prime target of China and North Korea from the moment of its installation.

North Korea’s ICBMs’ potential for destruction is not limited to the Korean Peninsula but exceeds the continent with its long-distance capabilities.

Specifically, this ICBM is targeting for the United States. Mr. President, you too know this well. Regardless that you used the term, “temporary installation,” you still proceeded with the installation of THAAD because you knew that you have hit the wall of reality in the current international politics. Of course, North Korea has the primary responsibility for this immediate installation by practicing nuclear experiments in response to your suggestion to communicate.

Whether you truly meant it or not, the hostile relation between North Korea and the U.S. has escalated as a result of the installation of THAAD, casting dark clouds over our future. This childish game like “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” can result in the devastative destruction of both north and south Korea. The ever vigilant Japan (with one eye always open) also comes into my vision.

For those who are responsible in the North, I ask you for a favor.  Once, I used to work for Lee In Mo who had been a war correspondent for the People’s Army, (Lee, In Mo, at the time, wasn’t able to walk on his own and was under my care due to post traumatic stress disorder after the separation of Korea).

To the Party, in accordance with the “by the people” rhetoric you often use, don’t simply say “people”, “people”, but truly lay everything down in front of the people.

The destiny of the people is to work together, with a mindset of carrying on and sharing. So, therefore, before the U.S. and its divisionary “coveted interest” rhetoric comes into play, let’s set out to take an action on forming the next chapter of North and South Korean relations. After saying “By the people” rhetorically, but in fact bypassing South Korea is not acceptable. Currently, Korea is not under Lee, Myung Bak’s administration, nor Park, Geun Hye’s. The current administration is the outcome of the candle light movement which left the greatest mark in the world history. We must succeed. We have a proverb that says, “Lifting together is always better, even when it’s just a blank sheet of paper”.

You never know that we might come up with an idea that can stop the U.S. as a result of communication between North and South Korea.

I think I have the right to ask you for this as a person who had assisted Lee, In Mo, the highly respected person in North Korea.

President Moon Jae-In, I have respected and loved you. Even after I finish this journey of my life I will continue to believe in you. I feel honored if my death brings the hope of a THAAD withdrawal, and if through this moment of difficult breathing, negotiations with the US lead to a good result, this will be remembered as a glorious moment. I, as an unknown pacifist who has desired  to live as a man of the wind unfettered by the net, would like to wish for the peace on this land and say not to underestimate Korea as the last leaf of my life falls into the ground.

I want to be remembered as a person among the million participating in the candlelight revolution that our Korean government was born out of. Mr. President, I pray and hope that you stand strong and state sternly to the U.S. that your administration is the product of the candlelight revolution and, as it initially was, push ahead with the strength that comes with success and set a path for the world to remember. I hope for your health.


A single field flower,

Jo Young Sam

<Former Special policy aide for the inter-Korean cooperation for the 19th presidential candidate Moon Jae-in- If you had been a member of the candlelight revolution, you would have been qualified for this>

P.S. My actions will be argued about and understood in many ways. I do not care.

I said I lived as “the free person of the wind unfettered by the net”, so what more words are necessary for those that couldn’t experience that life? For those for whom the trip of life is not yet over, I please ask that you give my regards to my wife and my young son.


*Initial English translation courtesy of William Rhee, final translation courtesy of Misuk Nam.


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