Cracks in Kim Jong Eun System

The Kim Jong Eun regime was launched in a flurry of activity following the sudden death of Kim Jong Il. It is led by a collective, not by Kim Jong Eun. This is the opinion of many. The problem is the character and strength of this collective leadership system.

This author would call the collective leadership system ‘guardianship rule’. Kim Jong Eun is surrounded by influential protectors; from his family there is Jang Sung Taek and Kim Kyung Hui, from the People’s Army there is a three-man ‘new military group’; Chief of Staff Lee Young Ho, Director of the General Political Department Kim Jeong Gak and Kim Young Cheol of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance. And for the public security side there is National Security Agency First Vice-director Woo Dong Cheuk.

At first glance we think we can tell how this is turning out. However, if we look more closely, we can see that the alliances in the guardianship rule system are very complicated, and that there are big disadvantages on show in terms of durability and strength.

Guardianship rule came into being in January, 2009; in other words, when Kim Jong Eun was nominated successor. However, within two years serious cracks had started to appear. The first signs were detected in February, 2011, while Kim Jong Il was still alive. According to highly accurate inside information which this author obtained, an influential person from the new military group called a close person to Jang Sung Taek and put pressure on him with the following warning;

“If anyone were to stand in the way of Kim Jong Eun, they would never be forgiven no matter who they were.”

It was the start of the drift apart for the Jang Sung Taek faction and that of the so-called ‘new military group’. Jang Sung Taek has not reacted to this explicit threat to date, but if it goes too far then it is unclear whether he will be able to maintain his self-control.

Jang Sung Taek’s nickname is ‘power struggle incarnate’. Within the Workers Party and Cabinet and even within the military, he has developed extensive contacts. He is close to old army figures Oh Keuk Ryul, Kim Young Chun and Kim Kyuk Shik.

This shrunken ‘old military group’ is increasingly discontented at the new army group. The signs are there. As the writer himself knows personally, military veterans have spread the idea of the replacement of Kim Young Chun, citing Kim himself, and expressed dissatisfaction at the supercilious attitude of the new army group.

This all points to the seriousness of the arrogance of the new army group. If Jang Sung Taek were to support the restraining of the new army group, the unity of the People’s Army could rapidly decline. Therefore, in the mid to long term the epicenter of the power struggle is most likely to be Jang Sung Taek.

Last December 24th, Jang Sung Taek put on an awkward-looking military uniform to say his last respects to Kim Jong Il. There are varying interpretations of this, but this author sees it in the same context as the above. When he was alive, Kim Jong Il played the role of lid, suppressing divisions and the emergence of cliques. But now he has departed the scene.

Kim Jong Eun cannot carry a spear, and he has lost a powerful shield in Kim Jong Il. And now there are even serious cracks in the guardianship camp. The biggest of Kim Jong Eun’s many weaknesses is that he has no experience in a power struggle. Will the power struggle amateur be able to play the arbitrator’s role on the field of veiled enmity? This author says no.

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