Jang’s Political Clout on the Wane

It has been alleged that, thanks primarily to Kim Jong Eun’s growing control over the levers of power, Jang Sung Taek’s political influence has begun to wane, and he is now concentrating on foreign currency-earning projects and his role in the State Sports Guidance Commission. At the dawn of his rule Kim is said to have listened attentively to Jang’s opinion on foreign and domestic issues alike, but the young man’s increasing decisiveness has led Jang’s influence to fade, sources conclude.

One such source from Dandong in China alleged to Daily NK on the 11th, “The Central Party is bringing in economic changes and doing all kinds of national construction projects, so they have needed to concentrate on earning hard currency,” adding, “Jang Sung Taek is currently overseeing these activities, and Oh Keuk Ryeol is in control under him.”

“Its now two years into his power, and so the Marshal has started to make important decisions by himself; therefore, Jang’s influence has declined. Internationally Jang is seen as the chairperson of the State Sports Guidance Committee so he does work related to that, too; however, I am told that domestically he is mainly dealing with foreign currency tasks.”

Furthermore, “It is not clear why this is; whether or not Jang is only working on foreign earnings and sporting matters because he has fallen out of Kim’s favor. Either way, there is no doubt that his influence in important policy making decisions has dwindled. Kim is listening to the opinions of fewer and fewer people now, and it follows that Jang’s focus on hard currency earning would correspondingly start to weaken his power.

A North Korean refugee who formerly occupied a ranking position in the Cabinet agreed with the source’s interpretation, saying, “Just as we tend to think in South Korea, Jang doesn’t have any power. Although the South Korean media goes on about him being the number two or the powerbroker, and even though he is Kim’s uncle, he really has nothing.”

Commenting on the allegations, Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute said, “It was reported on the 7th in Rodong Sinmun that, as Sports Guidance Committee head, Jang met some Japanese politicians, but he was portrayed pathetically there, without even a single photo. If Jang had some influence, he would’ve had at least one portrait with the piece. Jang’s status in North Korea is lower than South Korean society thinks.”

“Former Party secretary Hwang Jang Yop once revealed that Kim Jong Il said Jang must not be given a secretary’s position in the Party,” Cheong recalled. “This means that Jang was being held back even in Kim’s day. I am aware that Jang was dismissed from the Administration Department of the Party, too. It is inevitable that Jang would lose some power from being dismissed from his administrative position, and it looks as though he is now mostly working on sports and foreign currency issues.”

The source in Dandong also revealed some details of Oh Keuk Ryeol’s work, explaining that he “brought North Korean trade representatives and foreign currency earners stationed in Beijing, Shanghai, and Dandong together in Pyongyang for self-criticism sessions around Victory Day (July 27th). Those without good results to show from their work were removed.”

“Oh ordered them to use any and all means necessary to attract a factory producing solar batteries from China,” he went on. “He said that any person who brought such investment in would be allowed to manage the factory, too.”

According to the former Cabinet source, “From right back at the time Oh was head of operations for the Central Party he was engaged in hard currency earning; then even when he held an important post in the military his primary task was still foreign currency. He has a long history of involvement in munitions for the North Korean military, so he may be leading the work of earning hard currency for military supplies.”