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Pyongyang purges more Jang Song-thaek loyalists

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Dec 01,2014
North Korea is engaged in another purge of people close to Jang Song-thaek, the once powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong-un who fell from grace and was executed last Dec. 12, sending a deep chill through the top ranks of the Workers’ Party and the country’s elite.

According to a report to be published Monday by the Institute for National Security Strategy, which is run by the National Intelligence Service, dozens of senior party members were executed or stripped of their titles in a second phase of a purge of allies of the fallen Jang.

Some were executed on treason charges, heightening fears among the top party elite with connections to Jang.

The report says the second purge began after the collapse of a new 23-story apartment building that killed more than 400 people in Pyongyang in May. Enraged by the accident, the 31-year-old leader blamed “remnants of Jang Song-thaek” for the collapse because the building was constructed by the Ministry of People’s Security, which used to be overseen by Jang.

The report says 20 officials were either executed by firing squad or sent out of Pyongyang in the purge. Choe Pu-il, head of the security ministry who is also known as a basketball coach of Kim when he was young, was demoted and has been out of public sight since July.

In September, nearly 20 members of the Propaganda and Agitation department and Guidance department of the Communist Party were also shot to death on charges of being anti-party, or guilty of bribery, having improper relationships with women and taking drugs.

In October, the report says about 10 party members were shot to death for their connection to Kim’s uncle. One senior secretary from the Workers’ Party’s Haeju committee was also allegedly executed for watching television dramas from South Korea in October.

Some were executed for trivial reasons, such as changing a song lyric that originally praised Kim Jong-un while singing karaoke, the report says.

The string of executions has the entire elite in Pyongyang on edge. According to the report, Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, who was the de-facto guardian for Kim Jong-un when he studied in Switzerland, fretted about his future because he failed to stop a United Nation’s resolution calling Kim to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

“Minister Ri Su-yong feared he could not predict what would befall him after all his diplomatic efforts failed to stop the UN resolution,” wrote senior researcher Hyun Sung-il in the report’s opening statement.

Researcher Hyun was a former North Korean diplomat in Zambia who defected to the South in 1996.

One senior official at the research institute said there is a rumor among top party members that their country could crumble in less than 10 years in such conditions.

“When analyzing Kim’s lip movements during his chats with elderly party members on television, it is not rare to find him insulting them with foul language,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

BY LEE YOUNG-JONG, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]



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