Nordkorea schasst Armeechef

5 08 2012

(Georg Fahrion, Berlin, DIENSTAG, 17. JULI 2012 FINANCIAL TIMES DEUTSCHLAND) In einem außergewöhnlichen Schritt hat Nordkoreas Arbeiterpartei den Armeechef des Landes entmachtet. Wie die staatliche Nachrichtenagentur KCNA am Montag berichtete, habe das Politbüro Ri Yong-ho „wegen seiner Krankheit“ aus dem Präsidium des Politbüros, dem Zentralkomitee und als Vizevorsitzenden der Zentralen Militärkommission der Partei entlassen.

Ob Ri auch den Posten als Generalstabschef der mächtigen Volksarmee verloren hat, ist nicht bekannt, gilt aber als wahrscheinlich. Ri war erst 2009 in den innersten Machtzirkel aufgerückt und galt als wichtiger Unterstützer des jungen Diktators Kim Jong-un. Bei der Trauerprozession für den im Dezember 2011 verstorbenen Kim Jong-il war er neben dessen Sarg marschiert. Kim Jong-un hat sich oft mit Ri gezeigt und ihn auf Inspektionsreisen zu Militäreinheiten mitgenommen.

Machtelite in Bewegung Nordkorea-Kenner tun sich schwer mit der Deutung – zu undurchsichtig ist das dortige Machtgeflecht. Zunächst gilt als möglich, dass der 69-Jährige tatsächlich krank sei. Auf Fotos, die auf Anfang Juli datieren und die Ri beim Besuch von Neubauwohnungen in Pjöngjang zeigen, scheint er zwar nicht körperlich angeschlagen.

Der Nordkorea-Experte Leonid Petrov von der Universität Sydney gibt aber zu bedenken, Ri könne einen Autounfall gehabt oder einen Herzinfarkt erlitten haben. Jedoch: „Wenn es nicht die Gesundheit war, könnte es sich um eine Säuberung handeln.“

In diesem Fall stellt sich die Frage, ob eine Gruppe von Gegenspielern oder der junge Diktator selbst Ri gestürzt hat. „Es kann sein, dass sich Kim Jong-un mehr Handlungsfreiheit verschafft“, sagt Rüdiger Frank, Professor für Ostasienwissenschaften an der Universität Wien. „Es kann aber auch sein, dass wir gerade den ersten Schritt seiner Demontage beobachten.“

Vielleicht hatte Ri seine Rolle als Steigbügelhalter erfüllt. Oder er hatte seinen Schützling, der Petrov zufolge als ehrgeizig, aber auch reizbar und launisch gilt, zu sehr bevormundet. Anzeichen für Kurswechsel? Offiziell hat sich der in der Schweiz ausgebildete Kim Jong-un zur Politik des „Songun“ („das Militär zuerst“) seines Vaters bekannt. Im April hat er aber jüngere Funktionäre mit Wirtschaftskenntnissen in mächtige Parteiposten gehievt.

„Beobachter Nordkoreas erwarten, dass Kim Jong-un versucht, Ökonomen mehr Macht zu geben, Diplomaten, Leuten, die etwas vom internationalen Handel verstehen“, sagt Petrov. „Das könnte eine Abkehr vom Songun bedeuten – hin zu einer Politik, die mehr auf wirtschaftliche Entwicklung setzt.“

Die Nachrichtenagentur Bloomberg zitierte den südkoreanischen Analysten Cheong Seong-chang, demzufolge Kim Jong-un das Militär zunehmend für Wirtschaftsinitiativen mobilisieren wolle. Sein Widerstand gegen diese Prioritätensetzung habe Ri die Macht gekostet. Bloomberg berichtete, unmittelbar nach Ris Absetzung habe der junge Diktator eine Botschaft an Nordkoreas Soldaten gesandt, um ihnen für „ihre gewaltigen Leistungen bei bedeutenden Bauprojekten“ zu danken, darunter das landesgrößte Wasserkraftwerk.

„Meine eigene Theorie ist, dass Kim Jong-un auf eine Verbesserung der Beziehungen zu Südkorea setzt“, sagt Petrov. Ri stand als Planer und Kommandeur hinter der Bombardierung der südkoreanischen Insel Yeonpyeong im November 2010.





Kim Jong-Un is coming of age. What’s next?

29 07 2012

Image(Leonid Petrov, The University of Sydney) The power succession in North Korea has reached its culminating point. Kim Jong-Il, who died seven months ago, left his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, as the successor but appointed a number of high-ranking officials to mentor him and help ensure a smooth transition. Now the training wheels are being removed and the young Kim is about to show the world who he really is and what he is capable of.

After six months of training in the driver’s seat, Kim Jong-Un has decided that he is mature enough to rule the country single-handedly. The sudden ousting of his military mentor, Vice Marshall Ri Yong-Ho, is puzzling and can only be explained by a serious conflict which happened between the regal student and the soldierly supervisor. The hastiness with which the 69-year-old veteran was relieved of his duties in the Army and deposed from the Party was comparable only to the grand purges of the 1960s conducted by Kim’s grandfather, the DPRK’s founder and Eternal President Kim Il-Sung. There are rumours that Ri Yong-Ho defied the dismissal and ordered his men to open fire, leaving some 20 or 30 people dead.

As for the reason why the young dictator would sack his mentor in such a dishonourable way, one may only guess and assume that Kim Jong-Un simply decided to get rid of the last element of guardianship imposed by his late father. In addition to Kim’s numerous positions within the party and military: the First Secretary of the Korean Worker’s Party (조선로동당1비서), the Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the KWP (조선로동당 중앙군사위원회 부위원장), the 1-st Chairman of the National Defence Commission (국방위원회 1위원장), and the Supreme Commander of Korean People’s Army (조선인민군 최고사령관); Kim Jong-Un has recently been coronated with the highest military rank of Marshal (공화국 원수). Prior to Kim Jong-Un this rank in North Korea was held by his father and grandfather and, therefore, is an indication of the peerless status associated with the position.

Another dimension of the power succession process can be traced to the cultural performance, which Kim Jong-Un attended a week prior to Ri Yong-Ho’s fall from grace. The newly established light music band “Moranbong” gave its first concert which was broadcasted nationwide. Rumour has it that Kim Jong-Un personally came up with the idea for the concert and selected its performing members. The unusual nature of the show raised the eyebrows of everyone who saw it. Short skirts, revealing tops, and the trendy haircuts of the all-female music band were just the beginning. Walt Disney characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Tiggrer and other symbols of Western animation culture were warmly welcomed by the Mao-suited dictator and his uniform-clad military milieu.

The mysterious lady, who has recently accompanied Kim Jong-Un on most cultural functions, including visits to the elite kindergarten and “Moranbong” concert, turned out to be his wife, Ri Sol-Ju (also known under the name Hyon Song-Wol, a former singer from the Pocheonbo Electronic Music Ensemble보천보전자악단). Conspicuous by her gymnastic posture, short hairdo and trendy western clothes, she looks more sophisticated than her rotund apparatchik-like husband. Nevertheless, it is a new step in promoting Kim Jong-Un’s public image. He is now being seen by North Koreans as a mature man and head of the family, rather than the youngest child of Kim Jong-Il. As a person who has achieved prominent social and political status he now also enjoys the top spot in the military.

These are coded signals designed to reassure the North Korean population that they are being ruled by a powerful, shrewd and caring leader. Kim Jong-Un looks young but prominent; he is conservative in style but modern in heart; he might be ruthless to subordinates but is always benevolent to the common people. The purpose of the recent cosmetic changes and scandalous reshuffles is to diffuse the issue of legitimacy, which Kim dynasty inherently faces with each succession. Many important questions (such as: Who is this clumsy young man parading in his granddad’s costume? Can he feed the nation of 23 million people? Will he bring about peace or war?) are superseded by the bizarre mix of pseudo K-Pop shows, fake Disney parades, and the bloody shoot-outs between vice-Marshals.

Can Kim Jong-Un deliver the many promises which his father and grandfather bequeathed to the population of the Democratic People’s Republic? Relations with South Korea will stay strained until the conservative government in South Korea is replaced by the moderates, who may opt to once again take up the imperfect “Sunshine policy”. Pyongyang’s dialogue with Washington D.C. will remain indefinitely mute or at least until Kim Jong-Un gives up the nuclear program of which he is so proud. Russia is too pragmatic to lend more money to the bankrupt regime. China expects the young leader to embrace economic reform, something that Kim cannot permit due to potentially catastrophic consequences for the DPRK’s political system.

In other words, Kim Jong-Un is left with few choices, none of which seems suitable. Any attempt to liberalise economic life in North Korea would leave Kim’s clan vulnerable to the turmoil of a legitimacy crisis. Moreover, in the process of market-oriented reform, some of the elite groups which are associated with non-productive sector of the economy (the party, the army and state security) will find their role obsolete and their socio-economic status will be predictably worse. Disillusioned masses and angry elites are the best recipe for popular uprising and a collapse of the Kim dynasty. This scenario is the worst nightmare for Kim Jong-Un and his close circle of trusted advisors.

Despite some temporary disagreements and purges, the North Korean leadership will continue supporting superficial change but will resist any attempts at a full-fledged reform. Mickey and Minnie Mouse will continue dancing on Korean Central TV (조선중앙텔레비죤), but the Military-First Politics will remain the cornerstone of domestic politics and the main impediment for economic and political liberalisation. The dynastic system, however outmoded and ineffective, permits the young Marshal to keep his subjects loyal and competing for favours.

North Korea as we know it cannot be reformed. The problem is that the state is a hostage of its own history. So many lies and horrible crimes have been perpetrated during the 65 years of tyranny that the youngest of the Kims cannot open up the country without betraying his predecessors or jeopardising the foundations of his own rule. Any attempt to reform the system will lead to a legitimacy crisis, public unrest, the fall of the dynasty, and uncontrolled unification. Attempts to avoid this scenario will only protract the agony, permitting North Korea to slowly change in form but not in content.

Read this article in Korean here… 김정은 시대가 열리고 있다… 다음은?

Also, read this article here… Kim Jong-Un Comes of Age…





Kim Jong-un’s Rise Marks the Beginning of Hereditary Transfer of Power

1 10 2010

SEOUL (Yonhap, 30 Sep.) — As widely anticipated, North Korea officially started a hereditary power succession this week when its leader Kim Jong-il named his youngest son a military general and its ruling party gave him key political posts during the biggest party convention in decades.

In the party conference held on Sept. 28, North Korea appointed its leader’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in reports monitored in Seoul.

The North Korean leader named his third son, believed to be 28 years old, as a four-star general a day before the party conference, confirming speculation that the heir apparent has now started the process of succeeding his ailing father. It was the first time the son’s name has been mentioned by Pyongyang’s state media.

Analysts said Kim Jong-un’s rise marked Pyongyang’s first step to officially put the prince in line to take over the family dynasty in what would be the second-ever hereditary transfer of power in communism. […] Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who was also named at the conference as a member of the party’s central committee, which the North has repeatedly stressed this year must be “protected with life.”

“As a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, Kim Jong-un will strengthen his grip on the military” that operates 1.2 million troops and forms the basis of the Kim dynasty’s power, said Yang Moo-jin, an expert at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. But Kim Jong-un was not included among the newly elected standing members of the Political Bureau of the party, suggesting he had some work ahead of him to complete the succession plan.

In a reshuffle apparently aimed at assisting the power transfer, Kim Kyong-hui, the 64-year-old sister of Kim Jong-il, also became a member of the WPK Central Committee, the KCNA said, adding that her power-holding husband, Jang Song-thaek, became a member of the Central Military Commission. Jang is already a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, whose decisions have overridden most of those of any other organ in the country since Kim Jong-il seized power.

Jang is also the Workers’ Party’s director of administration with responsibility for the police, judiciary and other areas of internal security – the second most powerful post in the ruling party. Jang did not receive a general’s post because he already holds the powerful title of vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.

Kim Jong-il made his sister, who oversees the North’s light industries, a four-star general on Sept. 27 along with his third son, whose two older brothers have apparently fallen out of favor over the years. The North Korean leader’s appointment of his sister to such a post backed speculation over those who will serve as the young Jong-un’s guardians until he builds up enough experience and power.

The promotion of Jong-un’s aunt as general also demonstrates Kim Jong-il’s wish to protect his son within the military and the party. The aunt and her husband, Jang Song-thaek, are known to be supportive of Jong-un as heir to the throne, and Kim seems to be relying more on family as his health wanes.

Notable among the profiles released by the official KCNA was that of Ri Yong-ho, chief of the general staff of the North’s Korean People’s Army. Ri, who was promoted to the rank of vice marshal, rose as a standing member of the Political Bureau along with three others, including Jo Myong-rok, a vice marshal who visited the United States as a special envoy in 2000.

Little is known about the man other than his service as commander of the capital defense forces before his promotion last year to his current post, which is equivalent to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in South Korea. Ri was born in the same year as the 68-year-old leader Kim Jong-il, according to the KCNA. The oldest among the four new members are Kim Yong-nam and Jo Myong-rok, both 82, thus making Ri one of the two youngest along with Kim Jong-il on the panel, according to the release.

“The Conference marked a significant occasion that demonstrated the revolutionary faith and will of all the party members, servicepersons and people,” the KCNA said, calling on them to continue to uphold the military-first policy chartered by Kim…

See the full text of this article here…