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Warring Factions Competing for Power in North Korea

Posted October. 15, 2007 07:10,   


Our source on the ground in North Korea informed us that he conducted various interviews with North Korean refuges in China yesterday, and shared this information with a variety of civilian experts on North Korea and the Bush administration officials.

― What was the difference Kim Jong Il showed this time, compared with the 2000 summit?

“He didn’t look good. Chinese, Russian and American exports do not believe that Kim could hold on to power for more than five years. When he’s gone, North Korea will probably get bogged down in a power struggle. That may be a critical moment on the peninsula. The South Korean government has to closely monitor the situations in North and has to prepare itself with diverse contingency plans. Washington does not give much attention to the inter-Korean matters. The Middle East primarily occupies America’s attention. That’s not going to help South Korea.”

- Despite the physical condition, Kim still looked powerful, didn’t he?

“Warring factions are constantly waging hostile power struggles around Kim. Each of them has its own access to arsenals and power to mobilize troops. Also, each faction has a well-established human network. In addition, army generals further divide the army. Diverse personal connections stemming from the old days have transformed into factions. A sudden disappearance of Kim from power will probably spur them into action, putting North Korea in a very dangerous situation.”

- We have noticed the different attitude of Kim Jong Il. He acted differently in the 2000 summit with Kim Dae-jung. What do you say of it?

“Yes, that’s true. First, his lukewarm attitude must have come from his weakened health. Second, he did not expect as much from Roh as from Kim [Dae-jung]. Kim [Jong Il] seems to have considered the recent summit as an opportunity to inform the world of his positions on various issues. Otherwise, he did not want to commit himself to binding promises.”

― Kim seems to have acted differently on the first day of Roh’s arrival compared to the second day. Do you agree?

“We don’t have to overreact to each and every move of Kim. His ailing physical condition may have led to different emotional reactions. On the first day, Kim did not approach Roh and did not smile. I believe he did it intentionally. He must have wanted to show that Roh could not boss him around, and his regime did not need anything.

― What impact, if any, will the recent inter-Korean summit have on Kim Jong Il’s power?

“I don’t think it will have any. Kim is the one who makes the final calls in North. Nonetheless, he has to maintain balance among the factions. In short, he cannot make decisions without considering their opinions. When Roh suggested the withdrawal of troops from the DMZ, Kim declined it vehemently on the spot. The incident demonstrated Kim’s prearrangement with the army and the army’s prior consent to the summit.”

― After the summit, Roh defined Kim Jong Il as competent ruler. Do you agree?

“Kim Jong Il is a shrewd ruler when it comes to internal control. Of course, his regime is immoral and oppressive. Still, Kim maintains his power by controlling and confronting factions against each other. Kim Jong Il is competent only in that respect. But I don’t believe he cares about ordinary North Koreans and their welfare when making policy decisions.”