North Pyongan Party Cut Down to Size

The punishment of more than thirty officials from Party organs in North Pyongan Province is sending shockwaves through the national Party apparatus.

A number of sources within North Korea have confirmed the news in conversation with The Daily NK in the last few days, saying that the situation began to unfold at the beginning of this month and that the individuals were nominally singled out due to corruption.

The recent purge reportedly includes:

▲ Dismissal and loss of all privileges for the head of the provincial Guidance Department
▲ Sacking for the provincial propaganda secretary, as well as the head of the workers’ union and department responsible for power supply
▲ Demotion for the head of the Shinuiju People’s Assembly
▲ Sacking for the head of the city’s security forces and more than ten other city cadres
▲ Internal punishment for more than ten other party officials

A source from Sinuiju said “The dismissal of the propaganda secretary and head of the Guidance Department, people who are effectively in charge of the provincial party, as well as the removal of the municipal People’s Assembly chairman, all within a few days of one another, has left Shinuiju cadres in shock.”

The dismissed propaganda secretary was effectively the third most powerful cadre in North Pyongan Province, a man whose principal responsibilities include overseeing the idolization of the Kim family and the political education of the people, while the head of the Guidance Department and the workers’ union were effectively the 4th and 10th most powerful. As the main figure in the provincial Party Assembly, the head of the Guidance Department also had oversight powers over the chief secretary and organizing secretary. The appointment of all the dismissed officials falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Central Party Guidance Department.

Thus, the majority of defectors believe it implausible that the Party would punish so many heavyweight figures for corruption at once, even with the storm trooper inspections of a month ago as a catalyst.

Vice-President of Radio Free Chosun, Jang Sung Moo agreed, telling The Daily NK today, “It is highly unlikely that the authorities would get rid of the third, fourth and tenth most powerful figures in North Pyongan Province just for corruption. There is a good chance that there will be further charges down the track regarding other matters; espionage for example. That’s the only way ordinary people will be able to grasp it.”

South Korean intelligence agencies are already aware of the high profile sackings.

The highly irregular events in North Pyongan Province have caused consternation in other regions as well, sources say. According to one, “The numerous sackings of important cadres has left other cadres worried. Many of them can’t understand why their colleagues are being replaced all of a sudden.”

Interestingly, one of the dismissed cadres, the now ex-head of Shinuiju’s Guidance Department, is former North Pyongan Province Chief Secretary Kim Pyeong Hye’s son. Kim is regarded as one of Kim Jong Il’s closest associates after being promoted to the head of the Party Cadres Department at last year’s Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference. Thus, many people find it unlikely, at best, that corruption would be enough to bring down the son of one of Kim Jong Il’s trusted associates.

Accordingly, the purge could be a part of plans to facilitate Kim Jong Eun’s seizure of control of the Party. It is generally accepted that his takeover of the security forces is mostly complete, and instilling a measure of fear in the provincial elite is one method Kim is now likely to employ to help cement his grip.