Changchun, China — Recently, younger cadres have started being posted to city and county units of the National Security Agency (NSA) and People’s Safety Ministry (PSM), according to sources.
One such source from North Pyongan Province explained on Sunday, “NSA and PSM cadres are being rapidly changed for younger men, who are now playing a pivotal role. There are now two or three men in their late 20s and early 30s in the case of an NSA office, and among the ten men in a PSM office, five or six are in their 30s.”
“The change to younger agents began last year, making men in their mid-40s who should be at peak capacity start looking over their shoulder,” the source added.
A source from Yangkang Province concurred, adding, “Just now in the local NSA, prosecutors’ office and PSM, early- to mid-30s people have been stationed in almost all posts. These early- and mid-30s people are even taking places as high as vice director of the city or county NSA.”
The NSA and PSM represent the domestic force behind the Kim dictatorship, the tools of both policing and intelligence functions. As such, experts assert that if people loyal to the Kim Jong Il system are being replaced, that is another telling sign that North Korea is edging towards a system led by successor Kim Jong Eun.
Cheong Seong Chang of Sejong Research Institute explained, “This looks like generational change to facilitate the Kim Jong Eun succession system. To increase Kim Jong Eun’s ability to secure the system, they are changing existing cadres for younger men at a rapid pace.”
Even as late as the early 2000s, to become an NSA or PSM agent required an individual to have ten years of military service and two years of civilian work under his belt, and to have passed through a political college dedicated to the respective service.
Having gotten a foot in the door, an individual needed at least three to five years to gain promotion through local agent, vice section chief, section chief, vice director and then director positions, and as a result one would often be in one’s 50s before reaching the vice director’s chair. Of course, family background and political conditions also had to be met.
However, now there is an alternative course, with viable candidates being plucked from military service of only five or six years to enter an ordinary civilian college, and thereafter being stationed with the security forces.
After which, following two or three years as an entry-level agent, those who enter via this foreshortened route are sent for six months of political education, graduating whilst still in their late 20s or early 30s. It is these individuals who are now emerging early into mid-level positions in the security forces.
While it is claimed that this process is open to all soldiers with good backgrounds and represents an example of “Kim Jong Il’s consideration” of his subjects, the reality is that only a minority of young people, noticeably the children of cadres, can benefit from it, according to sources.
Regardless of which, the Pyongan Province source said that this policy change is causing problems, with the younger men speaking disrespectfully to people who are below them but who society traditionally views as their elder.
The Yangkang Province source explained, “Because they got pushed down the pecking order overnight, got hurt or feel betrayed, many are driven to drink. These older men are complaining at getting nagged by younger people.”
Alongside this, recently most new placements are far from an individual’s home.
A Shinuiju source commented, “In the past, prosecutors or People’s Safety agents were people born locally, but since August they have been coming from other provinces or counties. This seems to be a policy handed down to combat the many cases of agents turning a blind eye to the actions of family and friends.”
However, “These days, if you have money you can solve anything, so the interpersonal connections of these people make no difference,” the source concluded.