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  • Purge in Pyongyang: 5 Risks of North Korea’s Ouster of Its #2 Leader (Jang Song Thaek)

    December 13th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    WSJ interview segment with Korea specialist, Jasper Kim (December 13, 2013):
    YONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea said Friday that it executed Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek (장성택) as a traitor for trying to seize supreme power, a stunning end for the leader’s former mentor, long considered the country’s No. 2. Several days ago, North Korea accused Jang of corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs, and said he’d been “eliminated” from all his posts. Jang also was accused of trying “to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.”
     
    CNN interview segment with Korea specialist, Jasper Kim (December 13, 2013):

    Our view, at Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, is that Jang’s purge and subsequent execution is highly concerning for the following 5 reasons:
     
    1. LACK OF POLITICAL PROTECTION: One view among some analysts is that Jang’s purge reflects a strategic power consolidation effort by Kim Jong Un. However, we believe that with Jang no longer in the political picture, Kim Jong Un has very little political protection and sounding board/advisor, while also severing the cord between KJU and his father (which is more harmful than helpful since it is because of KJU’s blood line that enabled him to gain power). After all, his uncle Jang Song Thaek never, as far as we know, represented a credible threat to the leadership of his nephew, Kim Jong Un.
     
    2. IS IT KIM JONG UN OR THE MILITARY THAT TRULY OUSTED JANG?: Many analysts do not question whether the execution of Jang Song Thaek reflected the true intent and desires of Kim Jong Un or not. We believe the evidence as of yet is not fully persuasive that this was the case. Another scenario could exist, which may be as or less likely but still entirely possible, in which Kim Jong Un approved the execution of his uncle (Jang) due to the fact that Kim had no viable alternative due to tangible pressure from the military.
     
    3. LINGUISTIC HINTS AS POSSIBLE EVIDENCE: the substance and style of the language and wording used by the KCNA is one that is more reflective of diction that would be used by the military elements of the DPRK leadership than from Kim Jong Un himself. At the very least, a scenario could exist in which the military had an influential hand in terms of the announcement’s wording.
     
    4. WARNING SIGNAL TO PRC: Jang served as a symbolic bridge between the DPRK and PRC. Jang was also a supporter of PRC-type economic reforms. As such, Jang’s purge will place a grinding halt to any such similar suggested reforms and any such political progressive espousing such stance (i.e., it is not just one step, but many steps back). The PRC may also interpret Jang’s ouster as an anti-China political stance since Jang was a well known and generally liked figure in the PRC.
     
    5. IS THIS THE END OR JUST THE BEGINNING?: Jang’s purge represents a known-unknown variable in terms of what other internal struggles above and beyond the usual are occurring as we speak since Jang’s ouster would create an obvious power vacuum and/or ripple effect. Another risk exists in the form of future provocative acts by North Korea on the backdrop of such political reconstitution to either reflect away internal political strife or to show the international community that the DPRK is still acting under one rule. Either way, the international community should be prepared. The best case scenario is that the DPRK remains stable. The worst case scenario, albeit more remote, is one that involves a full-scale implosion.
     
     
    For a recent related CNN story North Korean execution raises more question than answers (featuring Korean experts, dJasper Kim and Andrei Lankov), click HERE.
     
     
    For a BBC World News interview (with Jasper Kim) regarding the Purge in Pyongyang, CLIDK HERE (interview begins at around the 7:30 min mark).
     
     
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