The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun has reported that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un was “very drunk” when he ordered the execution of his Uncle’s two aides.
Kim’s uncle Jang Song-thaek was head of the ruling Workers’ Party administrative department, a high profile and powerful position within the country. It was even rumoured at one point that Jang may even have been a contender to lead the country after the death of Kim Jong-il.
The official report from North Korea stated that Jang was executed after a special military tribunal found him guilty of treason.
“The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state,” the North’s official KCNA news agency reported.
It goes without saying; nothing in North Korea happens without the approval of the dear leader Kim Jong-un, even the outcomes of “trials”. The reason for his uncle’s death was far less sinister than a coup attempt, but rather the result of a drunken leader talking to two nervous low level aides.
According to Yomiuri Shimbun, Jang’s two aides questioned an order from Kim to hand over control of a business to the military. Sources told the newspaper Kim was “upset” when they said they needed to check with “Director Jang” first.
Jang’s aides, first deputy director Ri Ryong-ha and another deputy Jang Su-gil, were promptly executed in November following the orders of Kim Jong-un. After the executions it was only a matter of time before Jang too would face the same fate.
Eight people from director Jang’s inner circle were executed in all, which can only be described as a Soviet era type purge to instill fear over the people.
Kim used these executions, and his uncle’s show trial as a threat to anyone in the DPRK that may be thinking of or conspiring a coup.
Although I don’t find any evidence of a serious organized seizure of power from within the country, domestic disturbances in North Korea aren’t completely uncommon.
I’ve compiled a list of fairly recent dissension among the people of North Korea:
- In 1981, there were reports of armed clashes between soldiers and workers in Chongjin leaving as many as 500 dead, in 1983 similar clashes occurred in Sinuiju.
- In 1985, there were reports of a massacre of hundreds of civilians whom were demanding food.
- In 1990, students at the Kim Il-Sung University were arrested and tortured for organizing anti-government protests.
- In 1992 there was a failed attempt by officers in the State Security Department’s bodyguard bureau to stage a coup preventing Kim Jong Il from assuming the position as commander of the Korean People’s Army [KPA].
- In 1993 thirty military officers tried unsuccessfully to stage a rebellion against their superiors.
- In 1996 leaflets were found in front of the Kim Il-Sung mausoleum, criticising the cost of the mausoleum when citizens were starving.
- In 1997 a statue of Kim Il-Sung was found vandalized, and anti-government graffiti left behind.
- In 1998 there was that famous plot to assassinate Kim Jong Il by one of his body guards; the same scenario played out again in 2002.
- In 2004 a terrorist bombing of a train station killed 170 people, narrowly missing Kim Jong Il.
- In 2005 large banners were erected by a freedom youth league that denounced the “Great Leader”.
- In 2007 when women under 50 were banned from trading at farmer’s markets, large protests sprang up in Chongjin.
- In 2011, reports of many “Down with Kim Jong Un” graffiti sprang up at North Korean Universities.
Although these accounts are rare, I predict they’re becoming more common with the increase of wireless technology making its way across the border from South Korea and China.
Knowledge is power Mr. Kim, not secrecy.