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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Be Careful Around Kim Jong-un, He's a Little Touchy

North Korea Defence Chief Hyon Yong-chol 'executed'

From BBC Asia

North Korea's Defence Minister Hyon Yong-chol has been executed, South Korea's spy agency has told parliament, according to media reports.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that MPs were told Mr Hyon had been killed on 30 April by anti-aircraft fire.

Anti-aircraft fire? Wow! I guess Kim wanted him really, really dead.

He is believed to have been accused of showing disloyalty to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un.

Reports from North Korea are impossible to independently confirm.

There were few details of the reported execution, but Yonhap - quoting South Korea's National Intelligence Agency briefing - said Mr Hyon had fallen asleep during an event attended by Kim Jong-un.

In a normal country, you might get 'fired' for that, not 'fired at'.

Mr Hyon became military chief in 2012 following a purge of officials.

He is believed to have been a general since 2010, though little is known about him.

He served on the committee for late leader Kim Jong-il's funeral in December 2011, an indication of an influential role within the political elite.

A High-Ranking Defector Predicts Kim Will Fall within 3 Years

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)While the late Kim Jong Il imprisoned his enemies, his son and current North Korean leader simply executes them, says one of the highest-level officials to escape the isolated country in years.

A man we are referring to simply as Park to protect his identity tells CNN, in his first-ever interview, that Kim Jong Un's cruelty is shocking those around him.

He says, while his father and grandfather Kim Il Sung were both considered cruel by many around the world, Kim Jong Un is taking ruling by fear to a new level.

"During his first three years in power, hundreds of the elite have been executed," Park says, adding this brutality is shaking an already weak support base.

Much of what Park tells us cannot be independently confirmed, as North Korea is one of the most closed and repressive countries on Earth.

Regime defector claims Kim Jong Un poisoned aunt (right)
Execution claims
However, Park says, within three months of taking over from his power, seven of Kim's closest aides were killed, along with their entire families, he claims, including the children.

One of those close aides was his own Uncle. When his Aunt complained, he had her poisoned.

South Korean intelligence believes Kim has already executed 15 senior officials so far this year.

"A lot of top officials in North Korea are not sure which direction Kim Jong Un is taking them in," says Park. "He doesn't know how to be a leader. He doesn't know politics, economy, culture or diplomacy."

Initial plans for a more open market economy modeled on China was soon dumped, says Park, once it became clear opening up could jeopardize Kim's iron grip on power.

"People are struggling to survive and are trading on the black market so the official economy is barely functioning." Park adds "a lot of people are trading foreign currency and running small businesses but the power of the state to control that money is weakening."

On a rare visit to North Korea, CNN put the claims of high-level executions to Park Yong Chol, the deputy director of the DPRK Institute for Research into National Reunification -- a think tank with links to the highest levels of North Korea's government.

He dismissed the claims as "baseless and groundless," but did not deny executions had occurred in North Korea. "It is very normal for any country to go after hostile elements and punish them and execute them."

Uncle being taken to firing squad
Tenuous grip on power?
Park predicts Kim's leadership may implode within three years. He says he does not know what or who would follow.

Park is not the first North Korean defector to predict Kim's days in power are numbered although many experts cast doubt on those forecasts.

Park also claims senior officials are increasingly questioning Kim's claim to the throne. Many believe his mother was born in Japan, an historical enemy of the Kim dynasty, which obsesses over a pure regal bloodline. Park says many doubt he ever met his grandfather, the founder of the country, Kim Il Sung.

"Kim Il Sung was the leader of the Paektu bloodline, but there is not a single photo of them taken together. That is why people suspect Kim Jong Un was never recognized by his grandfather."

Senior officials are also concerned by Kim Jong Un's move away from its main ally and sponsor, China. Park claims when Kim learned Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting South Korea last July, he gave a directive to stop government-level interaction with China. (see - touchy).

"The blood alliance with China which lasted for decades became neglected. China chose South Korea for its strategic partnership. North Korea has become very troublesome to China. This is how Kim Jong Un has isolated the country even further."

This should make North Korea more vulnerable to sanctions or other action at the UN. China has been vetoing most attempts to deal with the Kims, but they may be more open to change now. 

On the other hand, as we know, when leaders are in serious decline in public favor, one of the best tools to remedy that is to start a war. This could be a very dangerous time for southeast Asia.

Kim Jong-un - A boy in man's clothes who takes himself far too seriously