My latest in NK News: Was Kimfs aide Choe destined to follow Jang?


Was Kimfs aide Choe destined to follow Jang?

Choe Ryong Hae still missing, apparently excluded from leaderfs new inner circle

March 4th, 2014

Kosuke Takahashi

While North Korea watchers ponder the whereabouts of Kim Jong Unfs former right-hand man, speculation has emerged that he, and Jang Song Thaek, may have been alienated from the young leader in late November to legitimize the so-called glineage of Paektu.h

Looking back, a transitory event may have taken place on November 30 – in the absence of both Choe Ryong Hae and Jang.

On that day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Samjiyon lake on Mount Paektu, bordering China, with eight aides who have apparently become his new core group of close confidants.


On November 30, the Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim visited the old battlefields of the revolution near Samjiyon, located in Ryanggang Province, and inspected a memorial and a billet used to explore battlefields during the revolution. Seen in the above photo are the rising stars in North Korean politics – Hwang Kwang Sang (left), Hwang Pyong So (second from left), Kim Yang Gon (to the back left of Kim), Hong Yong Chil (right) and Kim Won Hong (second from right) – who accompanied Kim. | Picture: Rodong Sinmun

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on that day reported that Kim made a pilgrimage to the Samjiyon Revolutionary Battle Site, a sacred place where his grandfather and national founder Kim Il Sung is said to have led struggles against Japanfs occupation and colonization of Korea until the 1945 liberation.

The timing of Kim Jong Unfs visit to this revered site was crucial. For one thing, his uncle Jang Song Thaekfs two close confidants – Ri Ryong Ha and Jang Su Gil – were publicly executed in late November, possibly right before this Nov. 30 visit.

Also, Jang was purged at the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Korean Workerfs Party (KWP) on December 8, just one week after the visit.

The Rodong Sinmun on December 11 published an editorial entitled gLong Shine the Rigorous March of Samjiyon.h

gIt was an eruption of his determination of steel to continue the march of the Korean revolution and a terrifying iron hammer on those who betrayed the revolution,h it said of Kimfs visit to Samjiyon near Mount Baektu, Thus, it is strongly suggested that Kim made the final decision to purge his uncle in visiting this sacred spot.

Kim has aimed to instill the so-called glineage of Paektu,h the royal bloodline of the Kim family, in his surroundings for the past months.

The KCNA on November 30 reported that Kim noted that this visit offered gan opportunity to harden the determination and will to accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche started at Mt. Paektu.h

The Northfs media again stressed this lineage on December 13, the day after Jangfs execution.

gNo matter how much water flows under the bridge and no matter how frequently a generation is replaced by new one, the lineage of Paektu will remain unchanged and irreplaceable,h the KNCA said.

gAmid a series of purges, Kim Jong Un is trying to take over the deification of Kim Il Sung by appealing to the lineage of Paektu,h Hideshi Takesada, an expert on regional security at Takushoku University in Tokyo, told NK News on Friday. gHe is intentionally trying to give the public the clean image of an ancient and honorable origin.h


So, who are the members of this new inner circle from which Jang and, apparently, Choe have been excluded?

Minister of State Security Kim Won Hong was among the top aides who accompanied Kim to the Samjiyon Revolutionary Battle Site at this crucial time.

The rest were assorted officers within the Workerfs Party of Korea: Secretary and Director of the United Front Department Kim Yang Gon; Director of the Finance and Accounting Department Han Kwang Sang; Organization Guidance Department Deputy Director Pak Thae Song; Deputy Director of the Organization Guidance Department Hwang Pyong So; Deputy Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department Kim Pyong Ho; Deputy Director of the Machine-Building Industry Department Hong Yong Chil; and Deputy Director (with Capital Construction Portfolio) Ma Won Chun.

gWhat I was interested in was that Choe Ryong Hae did not join the visit to the Samjiyon Revolutionary Battle Site, although he came very near there,h Hisashi Hirai, a veteran reporter with Japanfs Kyodo News, said in a seminar on North Korean affairs at Keio University on February 27. gHe was ordered to go back.h

gShould the Kim Jong Un regime continue for years, those eight aides of Kim Jong Un would be long noted,h Hirai said. gThey were together when they had the final meetings to decide Jangfs execution. The visit itself would be regarded as a revolutionary event.h

Hirai, an experienced North Korea watcher, also said he is focusing on those figures who on December 8 attended the expanded KWP Political Bureau meeting, at which Jang Song Taek was removed from office and sat on the podium of the stage together with Kim Jong Un.

Picture: KCTV

Excluding Kim Jong Un and Choe Ryong Hae, those figures were Pak To Chun, Kim Ki Nam, DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju, Kim Yong Nam Supreme Peoplefs Assembly Presidium President), Kim Won Hong, Choe Thae Bok, Kim Yang Gon, Jo Yon Jun, Kwak Pom Ki, Kim Yong Il, Kim Pyong Hae, Mun Kyong Dok and Kim Kyong Ok.

Hirai said those 19 people who accompanied Kim Jong Un to the Samjiyon Revolutionary Battle Site and/or who sat on the podium of the stage might have played the leading role in Jangfs execution.

Among them, Kim Won Hong and Kim Yang Gon overlap.

Hirai also pointed out that one of the main characteristics of the Kim Jong Un regime is that it centers around the partyfs expanded superiority over the military, a shift from his father Kim Jong Ilfs Songun (military-first) political system.

Masao Okonogi, a leading expert on Korean affairs and professor emeritus in law at Keio University in Tokyo, said in the same seminar at Keio that Kim Jong Un is probably aiming at establishing his own new regime until the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Workerfs Party of Korea in October 2015.

Okonogi said those who visited the Samjiyon Revolutionary Battle Site on November 30 and who sat on the podium of the stage on December 8 will highly likely support the Kim Jong Un regime in the meantime.

Top photo: Rodong Sinmun

Photo of Kim and aides: Rodong Sinmun

Bottom photo: KCTV screen grab
posted by Kosuke at 02:08| Comment(0) | NK News