Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin is warning that North Korea might act out early next year:
“There is a high probability of the North launching various kinds of provocations between late January and early March,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok quoted him as saying during a video conference with military commanders. “We have to prepare for both provocations and an all-out battle to strike back against the commanding forces of the North.
That last part reads a lot better in Korean:
“국지도발과 전면전 위협에 동시에 대비하면서 적이 도발하면 지휘 및 지원세력까지 강력하게 응징해서 도발 의지를 완전 분쇄해야 한다”고 강조했다.
I.e., if North Korea launches a provocation, we’ll hit not only the source of the attack, but also support and command units. Basically a restatement of previous South Korean warnings.
Kim also said the execution of Uncle Jang marks an important “turning point” for the North, suggesting that while it might solidify the leadership temporarily, internal instability would grow.
The opposition Democratic Party was a bit suspicious as to why the minister would worry the public so when there are no signs North Korea is up to anything unusual (OK, that’s not entirely accurate). To be fair to the DP, they have reason to be suspicious—the Defense Ministry is set to announce the interim results of an investigation into allegations its cyber-warfare command joined hands with the NIS to engage in an online smear campaign against DP candidate Moon Jae-in in last year’s presidential election.
Anyway, if you’re into whatever they call Kremlinology for Pyongyang (there was a great word for this, but I can’t seem to recall it), the ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the passing of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il are producing a ton of it in the South Korean press. This piece in the Dong-A sums up the most notable observations, including the rise of Choe Ryong-hae, head of the KPA’s political bureau:
The North’s Korea Central TV station broadcast live the memorial ceremony for about one hour from 11 a.m. on Tuesday. At the leadership platform, Kim Yong Nam, executive chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Choe Ryong Hae, director of the Korean People`s Army General Political Bureau, were sitting on both sides of the North’s leader Kim Jong Un. On the first anniversary event last year, Choe Chun Sik, the director of the second natural science institute who contributed to the launch of a rocket, was sitting between Kim and Choe Ryong Hae. Considering that Kim Yong Nam is a post of formality who externally serves as the head of state, the new seating arrangement suggests that Choe Ryong Hae positioned himself as the undisputed No. 2 man since Jang’s execution.
Notably, Choe Ryong Hae is distancing himself from Jang by underscoring his family’s loyalty to the family of Mount Baekdu (Kim Jong Un) that has lasted for generations. Choe Ryong Hae’s father, Choe Hyon, jointly staged anti-Japanese independence fight as communist with North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, and is a figure admired in the North for his lifetime royalty to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Choe was especially mouthy yesterday, swearing not only undying loyalty to KJU, but also promising to rain fire and brimstone on Seoul if it attacks. Needless to say, that grabbed the Chosun Ilbo’s attention.
Nobody really knows what the long-term impact of Jang’s execution will be in terms of North Korea’s internally stability. It hasn’t done much for Pyongyang’s international image, though. Heck, even Bruce Cumings was appalled. One guy who’s not letting the bad press keep him away though is Dennis Rodman, who’s back in Pyongyang to help train North Korean basketball players.
Needless to say, you should all be reading Joshua Stanton at One Free Korea on a daily basis now. His comments on Uncle Jang’s wife—who doesn’t look like she’s going to get axed any time soon—are rather poignant:
For years, I’d heard from a well-connected South Korean friend that Kim Kyong Hui and Jang were in a Clintonian marriage, and that their estrangement was a bitter one. I’d even heard that she was the more powerful of the two spouses (she certainly is now). The Joongang Ilbo, citing the Asahi Shimbun, says that Kim divorced Jang shortly before his execution. This report, citing South Korean sources, says that Jang and Kim’s “only daughter committed suicide in 2006 while studying in Paris.” What a sad life she must have lived, and she was one of the “lucky” ones.
Some day, a South Korean “drama” producer is going to make a lot of money on this. It’s like “The Borgias” meets “The Killing Fields.
photo credit: bryanh via photopin cc
UPDATE: About that word I couldn’t remember…