North Korean Military to Be Pacified Before Inter-Korean Summit

Apr 11,2000

It appears that Kim Jong-il, chairman of North Korea's National Defense Committee, will attempt to appease the military before inter-Korean summit talks open in June.

According to South Korean experts on North Korean affairs, the most unpredictable factor in the unexpected announcement of summit talks must be the North Korean military, with Jo Myong-rok (third in power ranking), director of the General Political Department, at its zenith.

North Korean forces have yet to break free from the side effects of the clash with South Korea’s navy in the West (Yellow) Sea in June last year. On March 23 the North Korean military announced its "navigation order for the five islands in the West Sea," and claimed that it would not hesitate to strike, if necessary, to recover its honor after last year’s defeat.

Coincidentally, the summit talks to be held from June 12 to June 14 mark the first anniversary of the clash in the West (Yellow) Sea, and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that the upcoming meeting is not welcome to the North Korean military.

To be sure, Kim Jong-il is simultaneously the chairman of the National Defense Commission and supreme commander, both top military posts.

Furthermore, it is unthinkable for the military to resist or even question the absolute leader's decisions.

Nevertheless, Kim Jong-il had a fragile powerbase when he seized power after Kim Il-sung's death in July 1994 and the military was his staunchest supporter.

In addition, Kim Jong-il cannot turn a blind eye to the opinions of Ri Ul-sol, a National Defense Commission member, and other so-called first-generation revolutionaries, who were engaged in anti-Japanese partisan activities with his father Kim Il-sung.

The thirteen most powerful North Korean figures include as many as nine military elders or key military cadres. Among them are Chief of General Staff Kim Yong-chun (seventh rank) and Minister of the People's Armed Forces Kim Il-chol (eighth rank).

Kim Jong-il is acutely aware of this situation, and he has paid special attention to reading the hearts of military figures. In the first three months of this year, he appeared at 14 public functions, out of which eight were military-related events, such as visits to military units or military performances.

The so-called military-first politics, that places top priority on the military sector, was Kim Jong-il’s own idea.

South Korean experts analyze that the military's discontent with the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (APPC), which is actively earning dollars from South Korea, is "at a considerable level."

Recently an APPC official meeting a South Korean figure to discuss a project, commented, "The military and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland do not regard us in a favorable light." This remark allows a glimpse of the North Korean military's growing discontent over the recent trend toward inter-Korean reconciliation.

In particular, the military was reportedly against opening Panmunjom (the sole South-North border crossing) when Hyundai Honorary Chairman Chung Ju-yong's made a gift of cattle to the North in 1998, but the APPC's logic of acquiring dollars prevailed. In addition, the military was humiliated when it was forced to open Mt. Kumgang and its environs, a military stronghold, and Changjon Port, a key Naval base, for the Mt. Kumgang tourism project.

김정일의 북한 군부 달래기

김정일(金正日)국방위원장은 남북정상회담에 앞서 우선 군부(軍部)달래기에 나설 것으로 보인다.
 전격적 회담합의 소식에“누구보다 당혹스러울 세력이 조명록(趙明祿·권력서열 3위)군총정치국장을 정점으로 한 군부”라는게 우리측 대북전문가들의 전망이다.
 북한군은 지낸해 6월의 서해교전의 후유증에서 벗어나지 못한 상태다.지난달 23일에는‘서해 5개섬 통항(通航)질서’를 발표하고 패전을 만회하기 위한 일전불사를 호언해왔다.
 공교롭게도 서해교전 1년째가 되는 6월12∼14일 평양에서 열릴 정상회담은 군부에게 달갑지 않을수 있다.
 물론 김정일 자신이 군의 통수(統帥)권자인 국방위원장과 최고사령관직을 겸하고 있다.
 게다가 절대권력자인 그의 결심에 반발하거나 이의를 제기한다는 것은 있을수 없는 일이다.
 그렇지만 군부는 1994년7월 김일성(金日成)사망이후 어려웠던 김정일이 권력을 틀어쥘수 있도록 후원해준 최강 세력이다.
 더욱이 이을설(李乙雪·국방위원)등 김일성과 항일(抗日)빨치산 활동을 함께했다는 이른바 혁명1세대들의 시선은 무시할수 없다.
 북한권력서열 13위내의 인물중 김영춘(金英春·7위)군총참모장,김일철(金溢喆·8위)인민무력상등 무려 9명이 군부 원로거나 핵심간부다.
 김정일도 이를 의식해 누구보다 군심(軍心)을 읽는데 치중했다.올들어 3월말까지 14차례의 공개활동중 무려 8번이 부대방문이나 공연관람등 군관련 행사다.
 ‘군사분야를 모든 것에 우선한다’는 이른바 선군(先軍)정치도 그의 정책 아이디어다.
 남한측을 상대로 달러벌이에 나선 아태평화위에 대해 군부의 불만은“상당한 수준”이란게 우리측 전문가들의 분석이다.
 최근 아태평화위 관계자가 대북사업을 위해 접촉한 우리 인사에게 “우리를 보는 군부나 조평통의 눈길이 곱지않다”고 말한 점은 최근의 남북 화해흐름에 대한 북한군부 세력의 불편한 심기를 엿보게 한다.
특히 지난 98년 정주영 회장의 소떼방북때는 판문점을 열수 없다고 맞섰다가 아태측의 ‘달러획득’논리에 밀렸다고 한다.또 금강산관광을 위해 군사요새인 금강산 일대와 해군요충지인 장전항을 개방하는 수모를 겪었다는 것이다.

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