Blowing Away the Dead Wood

The deadly breeze of a purge is blowing through the North Korean elite; a process that experts agree is designed to establish the foundations of Kim Jong Eun’s power in advance of his ruling period.

According to a Chosun Ilbo report today, former Minister of Railways Kim Yong Sam and former Minister of Finance Mun Il Bong are among those who have been executed; the first for espionage, the allegation being that Kim leaked information which facilitated the Yongcheon Station explosion in 2004, and the second for the failure of the currency redenomination in 2009.

The South Korean administration has already confirmed the execution of Kim and is in the process of gathering intelligence on the fate of Mun. Elsewhere, approximately 20 cadres working in the Munitions Industry Department and Second Economic Commission were reportedly also purged for embezzlement late last year.

Kim Yong Sam had been Minister of Railways since September 1998, but ceased to appear in Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) reports as of June, 2008. Kim’s disappearance was subsequently confirmed in October that year when Cheon Kil Su was listed in a report as Minister of Railways.

Since he was in charge of the Ministry of Railways at the time of the Yongcheon Station explosion, April 22, 2004, Kim was always likely to come under suspicion. A state secret, the schedule for Kim Jong Il’s train is only known to Kim’s closest security organ, the Escort Bureau, and the Minister of Railways.

Cheong Seong Chang, a North-South relations researcher with the Sejong Institute told The Daily NK, “There is a good chance that he was executed because he didn’t protect information on the movements of Kim Jong Il, which must be kept completely secret.”
Meanwhile, former Minister of Finance Mun Il Bong was allegedly executed in April of last year along with Park Nam Ki for the failure of the currency redenomination.

Most experts characterize the executions as being part of Kim Jong Eun getting rid of obstacles to his succession.

In addition, they say the purge is designed to change the generation of leaders in the Party, military and administration. As Cheong pointed out, “Through the Party Delegates’ Conference last year, the old generation became a fifth wheel within the Party.”

He explained, “The best way to maintain discipline in general is to monitor embezzlement,” and added, “Now that Kim Jong Eun has started to establish his leadership system personally, the range of the purge has expanded.”

“Through purges, cadres can be exchanged for younger personnel. And it extends Kim Jong Eun’s influence.” On which, he predicted, “Taking the opportunity presented by the Supreme People’s Assembly on this coming 7th, the changeover of the generations in the Cabinet is likely to be carried out.”

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