'Fight or flight' for growing number of cadres

Kang Mi Jin  |  2016-01-05 16:19
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Since Kim Jong Un came into power, a large portion of North Koreans have seen their livelihoods improve--some marginally, others drastically-- due to the lack of control on market activities, but the leadership has instilled a sense of uncertainty about the future for Party cadres, many of whom feel purges and executions of high-level officials are summarily decided overnight. Kims iron grip has also added greater anxiety to the general publics trust in the stability of the system.

Over the course of four years, some 130 cadres from the Party, military, and government have been purged under Kim Jong Un, according to South Korean intelligence. Growing fear among high-level officials has reportedly led to more escapes and asylum cases from cadre and diplomats. While turning a blind eye to market activities for members of the public, in what appears to be Kims unique style of leadership, he has unleashed a wave of executions and purges on cadre members with the goal of drawing out their loyalty. 

By relaxing restrictions on the markets, he has been able to quell some disgruntlement from the public, but for cadre members who can have a more direct impact on his leadership, Kim has enforced his rule of intimidation. The calculation appears to be that even if people lose a bit of loyalty about the system itself, a better livelihood can encourage them to be satisfied with the status quo, whereas cadres can turn into enemies anytime, hence the ruthless purge and execution of those that appear to challenge his leadership in order to create greater stability. 

Some cadres say theyre losing weight tiptoeing around Kim Jong Un, and they even hint that they want to defect by saying theyd like to get away to somewhere else wherever it be, a source from Hamgyong Province who runs in pertinent circles reported to Daily NK. 

Compared to when Kim Jong Il was alive, people are doing better in terms of getting by, but surveillance on the political and ideological front has been amped up by many times the level in the past. Some have even said they have no idea when theyll be put on the chopping block, so they would rather retire to trivial posts. 

To bolster his point, he recounted an incident from last October, wherein a provincial Party cadre visited Pyongyang to attend the 70th Party Foundation Day festivities and reported that a Central Party cadre who had once been very welcome to bribes and known to crack jokes had suddenly become a very cold person. 

The reality is that these cadres are treading on ice worried that the smallest mistake they make might be considered insubordinate, he asserted. 

This is particularly true for officials overseeing trade with China, who harbor concerns about the growing mistrust pervading the political arena while concurrently agonizing about their future as their neighbor just over the river develops at lightning speed. News of other cadres being purged or penalized can act as the final catalyst in their decisions to defect, added a source from Yanggang Province.

A professor at a music college in the South, who defected not so long ago from the North and would not be named, explained that this year a cadre at the Central Party level escaped, while the whereabouts of a trade company head is also unknown.

Following these incidents, people said among themselves that regular people escape because theyre struggling to get by or because they have family members that have defected and they dont want to live under surveillance. But when cadres start to defect, it means there are problems with the state of politics, she pointed out.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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