2014 Offers Challenging Outlook for Kim

first_img Analysis & Opinion 2014 Offers Challenging Outlook for Kim Kim Jong Eun, who recently marked the endof his second year in power, has a handful of accomplishments to point to as his own. These include the construction of leisure facilities, primarily in Pyongyang, and more than a dozen (as yet wholly unfulfilled) special economic development areas aroundthe country. 2014 looks set to offer the Kim regime a different spectrum of challenge. All the signs suggest that the next year will have to be spent establishing KimJong Il-style “monolithic rule” to shore up domestic cohesion in thewake of Jang Song Taek’s execution earlier this month. Of course, Kim-led construction projects will continue in 2014, but the post-purgeiron fist will also dominate.Along with purging Jang’s people ona significant scale, this will require Kim to generate personal loyalty in theelite. It is assumed that he will continue replacing Party, military andadministrative cadres as a way of achieving this goal. Over the last two years,Kim has appointed wave after wave of new military personnel. In the process,around half of North Korea’s core military officials have been reshuffled, removed and/or replaced.As a new dictator must, Kim Jong Eun has broughtin new people who owe their success to him personally. Among the eightelites who walked with Kim Jong Il’s hearse in December 2011, the majority hasbeen replaced. This includes all four of the military figures who walked on the left flank of the vehicle: Ri Yong Ho, Kim Yong Chun, Kim Jong Gak and Woo Dong Cheuk.Arguably most oddly, the Ministry of People’s Armed Forcesportfolio has been transferred no fewer than four times in those twoyears: from Kim Yong Chun to Kim Jong Gak to Kim Kyok Sik to Jang Jong Nam. Byway of comparison, during Kim Il Sung’s 46-year rule five people held the samepost. In Kim Jong Il’s 17 years there were just three. The process under KimJong Eun has seemed rather impromptu and reactive, though it also acts to stop factional formation. 44% of frontline military cadres have alsobeen reshuffled.In the security forces,Kim Won Hong has emerged atthe head of the Ministry of State Security, as has Kim Chang Sop inthe political section of the same agency. The leadership is no doubt awarethat it will need the unconditional and instant compliance of the securityforces if it is to maintain control over society in the coming year(s) of flux.Within the Party itself, it is noticeablethat persons affiliated with security matters, such as First-Vice Director of the Party Organization andGuidance Department Jo Yon Jun and Political Director of the Ministry of PublicSecurity Ri Pyong Sam, have also seen their status rise. These people are well positioned to transfer Jang Song Taek’s previous domain, the Party AdministrativeDepartment, back under the auspices of the Organization and Guidance Department, thusrecentralizing power and cementing Kim Jong Eun’s domain.This rapid fire reshuffling process showsthat while Kim Jong Eun may have ridden in on the coattails of Kim Il Sung and Kim JongIl, he is aware that he must construct his own security. Perhaps inevitably, in contrastwith Kim Jong Il, who seized power in a calm and orderly fashion over manyyears, Kim Jong Eun has worked quickly and without finesse, suggesting a measure of internal insecurity.While fear is an effective tool in regime consolidationover the short term, it isn’t going to improve Kim’s judgment whenfaced with the challenge of balancing competing cadres in 2014. In the wake of theexecution of Jang Song Taek, senior military and Party cadres have been explicitly incentivized to competitively idolize Kim. If the leader cannot restore orderto political affairs, this will have a negative impact on the durability of the regime.One North Korea expert commented to DailyNK, “The key questions for the security of the Kim regime in 2014 are itsability to seize power over the Party, military and Cabinet, and whether this systemcan be brought into being harmoniously. Kim Jong Eun will have to focus on thepolitics of fear to get complete control over North Korea’s power elite.”However, Yoo Dong Yeol of the Police ScienceInstitute warned, “The inducement of loyalty via a reign of terror gives theappearance of stability over the short term, but it also risks increasing internal dissatisfaction,and as this internal unrest stacks up over the longer term, his power can weaken.” By Daily NK – 2013.12.31 9:56pm SHARE Facebook Twitter Analysis & Opinion Analysis & Opinioncenter_img Analysis & Opinion Is Nuclear Peace with North Korea Possible? RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Tracking the “unidentified yellow substance” being dried out near the Yongbyon Nuclear Center AvatarDaily NKQuestions or comments about this article? Contact us at [email protected] Pence Cartoon: “KOR-US Karaoke”last_img read more