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Fallout from assassination could be detrimental to the regime

Kang Mi Jin  |  2017-02-24 15:39
The Malaysian authorities have chosen to reveal the identities of four North Korean suspects suspected to be responsible for Kim Jong Nam's murder. The development lends further weight to the theory that Kim Jong Un ordered the assassination, and analysts are speculating on how the North Korean regime will respond.

The regime is likely to ignore or deny the accusations, as the international community has expressed shock at the ruthless method used for the assassination. North Korea previously remained silent in response to the findings of the South Korean government that Yi Han Yong, the son of Sung Hye Rang (the sister of Kim Jong Il's ex-wife Sung Hye Rim), was murdered by North Korean agents in 1997.

In addition, the regime is likely to claim that the incident is part of a 'grand conspiracy' through its diplomats including North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, rather than to announce its official position. Analysts also predict that the regime will likely claim that Kim Jong Nam must have been involved in a 'struggle between violent factions,' emphasizing his known predilections for womanizing and gambling.

The regime is expected to attempt to prevent news of the incident from spreading within North Korea. Most North Korean residents, other than central executives and some citizens of Pyongyang, are unaware of Kim Jong Nam's existence, and the authorities may try to suppress any emerging reports. 

However, despite the regime's best efforts, it is highly probable that the news will spread rapidly. The authorities have so far failed to completely block the influx of outside information that seeps in through the use of Chinese mobile phones and traveling merchants.

For this reason, some argue that the regime may instead opt to spread propaganda to preempt such an 'external attack, in order to prevent questions about Kim Jong Un's legitimacy in relation to his Paektu bloodline.

Lee Soo Seok, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for National Security Strategy told Daily NK on February 20, "There is a possibility that the regime will claim that the incident was manufactured by imperialist forces to damage North Korea's image. But the regime is not likely to confirm Kim Jong Nam's existence to the public, as it has never officially acknowledged him."

A high-ranking North Korean defector added, "Kim Jong Un will find it hard to quietly resolve the matter as domestic interest in his half-brother's death is expected to be uncontainable. So the regime is likely to make a far-fetched accusation, for example that, 'he tried to betray North Korea in cooperation with the South Korean puppet regime."

"As knowledge of Kim Jong Nam's existence appears inevitable considering the vast number of residents dispatched overseas (embassy staff, trade workers, and overseas dispatched workers), the regime will, as always, blame outside forces," the defector added. 

Most analysts agree that regardless of whether the authorities actively or passively address the incident, the developments will impact the regime negatively.

One North Korea analyst said on condition of anonymity, "Even if the regime blames 'external forces' for Kim Jong Nam's murder, people will criticize Kim Jong Un by comparing him with his father Kim Jong Il who tried to purge the collateral line of the family including his half-brother Kim Pyong Il. If the regime tries to completely block the news, it will only increase their doubts."

"Therefore, it can be concluded that Kim Jong Nam's death will have a negative impact on the Kim Jong Un regime, one way or another," he added.

Meanwhile, the North Korean domestic-facing media, including the Rodong Sinmun, have yet to directly report on Kim Jong Nam's murder. 
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