North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently authorized his sister, Central Committee Deputy Director Kim Yo Jong, to inspect “rear area” (logistics) units of the North Korean military anytime she chooses. Having long handled efforts mostly pertaining to South Korea and the United States, Kim is now able to wield influence on the military’s logistics activities.

A Daily NK source in Pyongyang said Friday that key political, administrative, operational, security and logistical commanders in corps and headquarters across the North Korean military were given an “urgent order” by Kim Jong Un on Nov. 11. The order was in the form of a “conversation” that the North Korean leader had with key officials in the ruling party’s Central Committee. 

The gist of the conversation was that Kim had authorized his sister to inspect “at any time, without warning” the entirety of the North Korean military’s logistics and supply efforts, including barracks maintenance, food, clothing, and fuel. The order reportedly included a detailed explanation of why Kim had made the authorization. 

According to the source, Kim was discussing the state of the North Korean military with his sister and top Central Committee figures such as party organization secretary Jo Yong Won and Military Government Guidance Department director Oh Il Jong on Nov. 8.

The conversation as presented in the order was as follows.

On Nov. 8, Oh reported the findings of his comprehensive study of internal conditions in the North Korean military from the Eighth Party Congress at the start of the year to the present time, right before the start of winter training on Dec. 1.

Oh’s fact-finding mission followed an order by Kim to examine the state of the North Korean military.

In his report, Oh recounted innumerable instances of soldiers being sent home to recover from malnutrition or disease, or companies experiencing multiple desertions. The cause, he said, was widespread illegal accumulation of wealth within the military. 

He said rear area brigade, battalion and company commanders and secretaries in charge of food and clothing are leveraging the military’s party organization to pilfer supplies to satisfy their own interests, cooking the books in the process.

After quietly listening to the report, Kim looked at his audience and recounted that Jo Yong Won and top military official Ri Pyong Chol gave contrasting answers when asked after the Eighth Party Congress whether the North Korean military could quickly knock out South Korea if the party ordered it. 

kim yo jong party membership
Kim Yo Jong meeting with South Korean government officials in June 2019. / Image: Ministry of Unification

Ri said the military could push to South Korea’s Nakdong River and unify the peninsula “right away” on Kim’s order. Jo, on the other hand, said the North Korean military was in no condition to fight due to rear area supply shortages and rife malnutrition among its soldiers.

Kim recalled how his sister, who was sitting next to him at the time, agreed with Jo’s assessment and said if the party approved, she would secretly inspect rear area units of the military and file frank, honest reports on what she saw. Kim said if they had paid more attention to what Jo and his sister had said, the so-called “June Incident” would not have happened.

The “June Incident” likely refers to the failure to execute a special order issued by Kim during the Third Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee, which was held in June. 

Based on information obtained by Daily NK, Kim’s special order called for the “normalization” of public food provisions. However, when authorities tried to relieve immediate problems by releasing military food stores, they learned that rear area military warehouses were empty. This had serious consequences, including the punishment of a string of officials in charge. 

During the conversation, Kim said his sister’s election to the State Affairs Commission at the Fifth Meeting of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly in September authorized her to undertake duties as the rear area commander of North Korea’s supreme command “out of recognition that the military’s physical condition and supply preparations were serious problems.” He said comprehensive reports from his sister’s inspections would be reflected in national policy regarding the military’s rear area efforts.

Given that the conversation has gone out to the military in the form of an emergency order, military personnel are reportedly saying they must be more careful than normal during winter training as Kim Yo Jong or her guidance officers could show up “anytime, anywhere.” The source said tensions in the military are high as personnel could be stripped of their positions if inspectors find that their units are unable to fight.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.