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Kim Jong-un concentrates power in his hands

Publication Date : 11-12-2013


By purging his right-hand man, Jang Song Thaek, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un revamped the power structure only two years after the launch of his regime, concentrating more power in his hands.

The removal of Jang, 67, vice chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission and the leader’s uncle, also caused uncertainty over the resumption of the six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear development. Observers said North Korea may take a harder diplomatic stance.

Jang taken to kangaroo court

“Jang Song Thaek discarded his conscience and betrayed [the country],” a female announcer of the Korean Central Television said during a news programme at 6am Monday, using his name without an honorific title.

An enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Sunday was a political show in which Jang was taken to a kangaroo court in front of senior party officials, where he was condemned for expanding his influence and committing antiparty actions such as earning foreign currencies. It was intended to put an end to the political life of the country’s No. 2 figure.

North Korea’s official media that reported the meeting said Jang took control of the country’s economic sector and threw the state financial management system into confusion, adding that he “committed such acts of treachery as selling off country’s precious resources at cheap prices.”

Such statements match analysis by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.

The NIS pointed out that the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Administration Department, when headed by Jang, acted arbitrarily in earning foreign currencies and squabbled over its interests with another group in the government, an action it regards as unauthorised.

The NIS also announced that two of Jang’s close aides, who were executed publicly, might have been charged with embezzling foreign currencies.

During the enlarged Politburo meeting, Jang was also condemned for not following Kim’s orders.

Jang reportedly opposed Kim’s policy of making state-run companies more financially independent, saying it was premature to do so. It is highly likely this might have brought Kim’s wrath upon him.

Since the regime of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Pyongyang often conducted purges of high-profile senior officials to strengthen the country’s dictatorship. According to a high-ranking South Korean government official, however, it is unprecedented that such scandals as relationships with women to be revealed, as was the case this time.

Under Kim Jong-un’s regime, a meeting of the Politburo was also held in July last year, and Ri Yong Ho, then chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army, was purged. The official reason for the removal was explained as “sickness”.

Reign of terror

According to an NIS analysis of the current situation in North Korea, Kim Jong-un is strengthening a reign of terror to solidify his power base.

The NIS sees Kim Jong-un is appointing senior officials in their 40s and 50s to key posts. By firing Jang, he will be able to concentrate more power in his hands, and the younger officials will compete to show loyalty to Kim, it said.

It said more than 40 people were executed publicly in North Korea this year, up from 17 last year.

The NIS predicts that, following the ouster of Jang, Choe Ryong Hae, director of the Korean People’s Army General Political Bureau, will have stronger influence. However, it was made clear during the enlarged meeting of the Politburo that disobeying orders given by Kim Jong-un, the supreme commander of the military, would be “an antirevolutionary action.” It is, therefore, unlikely that Choe will be able to express any disagreement with Kim.

Since the launch of Kim’s regime, North Korea often cancels agreements with neighbouring countries at the last minute. Because of purge of Jang, who placed importance on the country’s relationship with its neighbours, North Korea’s foreign policy is expected to become more unpredictable.


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