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Kremlinology and Pyongyang

Posted April. 17, 2017 07:20,   

Updated April. 17, 2017 07:33


When Joseph Stalin, a dictator of the Soviet Union died in 1953, the West pointed out Lavrentiy Beria as his successor who used to be a right-hand man of Stalin and chief of the Soviet security in People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated as NKVD, and a former KGB. NKVD was a joint law enforcement agency that conducted a Great Purge of up to 200 people under Stalin’s dictatorship. It was Nikita Khrushchev, however, who survived from the power struggle. The fall of Beria was known to the outside when he didn’t show up for a Bolshoi Ballet performance.

During the Cold War, the West came up with Kremlinology, a combination of Kremlin and "ology," a suffix meaning study, as a last resort to grasp the development in the ruling class of the Soviet Union. What was going on inside the Kremlin was indirectly analyzed from the rank shown in the pictures of Politburo members or in articles and statements put on party’s bulletins. When a formal military inspection was held marking the 65th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution at Moscow’s Red Square in 1982 when Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev died, the West was sensitive enough to figure out the successor by analyzing each and every face of the Politburo members.

North Korea’s Military Security Command Kim Won Hong whom South Korea’s Ministry of Unification reported to have been purged in February appeared in the live broadcast of North Korea’s formal military inspection aired by Korean Central Television on Saturday. It was said that Kim had taken a leading role in executing key figures such as Jang Song Thaek, chief of the Central Administrative Department of Workers' Party, and had been under confinement due to frequent false reports to Kim Jong Un. Although little is known about his two-month absence, his emaciated look tells the ups and downs of power in Pyongyang.

When U.S. President Donald Trump was being reported about the missile attack on a Syrian air base early this month, the seating plan in the picture was at the center of public attention. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in the Trump administration was placed near the door while Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, was sitting at the same table with the president. The seating arrangement was the telling sign of power arrangement in the White House. It seems that the time has come to bring back the Kremlinology again in order to understand internal dynamics of opaque power group.