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N. Korean leader solidifies grip of power with party organization

N. Korean leader solidifies grip of power with party organization

Posted April. 10, 2014 03:20,   


It has been known that the organization guidance department of North Korea`s ruling Workers Party has emerged as a key power elite group supporting the communist state`s leader Kim Jong Un following the execution of his once-powerful uncle-in-law Jang Song Thaek.

"The organization guidance department`s status has been strengthened since the dismantlement of the party`s administrative department which was headed by Jang following his execution," a source on North Korea said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a day before the first session of the 13th Supreme People`s Assembly (SPA), the North`s newly elected rubber-stamp parliament, the North held a meeting of the party`s politburo and "discussed the issue of reinforcing the organization for increasing the leadership role and function of the Party."

North Korea experts speculate that the meeting discussed ways to dismantle the party`s administrative department and have its functions be absorbed by the organization guidance department. "Strengthening the organization guidance department means strengthening Kim Jong Un`s monolithic leadership through the party," said Chung Young-tae, a senior researcher at Seoul`s Korea Institute for National Unification. "The organization guidance department`s elite groups will likely advance to key posts at the party`s politburo and the National Defense Commission, a state organization."

○ Rise of Kim Yo Jong and Hwang Byong So

The organization guidance department has been tasked with monitoring and reporting political activities and private lives of all party members and senior officials. If it absorbs the administrative department`s role of controlling the State Security Department (intelligence agency), the Ministry of People`s Security (police) and other government administrative organizations, it will have absolute power.

One of the leading figures among the new power elite in the organization guidance department is Hwang Byong So, its first vice director. After Hwang was elected a member of the 13th SPA in March for the first time, North Korean media confirmed that he was promoted to the current position. "There are rumors that Hwang was appointed as the organization guidance department`s first deputy director for military affairs, while his predecessor, Kim Kyong Ok, was named director of the military department of the party`s central committee," said Chung Sung-jang, a senior researcher at Seoul`s Sejong Institute. Hwang accompanied the North Korean leader`s field guidance tours the second most frequently after Choe Ryong Hae, director of the North Korean military`s General Political Bureau, last year and the most frequently so far this year. Many experts think that Hwang has emerged as one of Kim Jong Un`s closest aide. Hwang is known to have won high confidence from Kim`s mother since serving as an office director of the organization guidance department. It seems that Hwang, together with other first deputy directors of the department, Cho Yon Jun and Kim Kyong Ok, will likely prop up the regime of Kim Jong Un, who is strengthening the party`s control over the military.

"Some speculate that Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un`s younger sister, is in charge of areas that Jang Song Thaek supervised in the administrative department in the past," Chung of the Sejong Institute noted. In other words, Kim Jong Un is trying to solidify his power by taking control of the organization guidance department through his closest aides and family members.

○ Kim Jong Un`s caprice keep power elite restless

Another axis of the North`s key power elite is the State Security Department, which took the initiative in Jang`s execution with the organization guidance department.

Kim Won Hong, director of the intelligence agency, was sitting by Kim Jong Un`s side together with Choe Ryong Hae when Jang was dragged out of the party`s politburo meeting in December 2013 on charges of "anti-party, counter-revolutionary, factional acts."

Kim Won Hong is known to have made great contributions to the young North Korean leader`s taking control over the North Korean military elite since becoming deputy organization director of the military`s General Political Bureau. As a member of the party`s politburo, a core power organization, Kim Won Hong has a high status in the party than Ri Yong Gil, chief of the (North) Korean People`s Army, and Jang Jong Nam, the defense minister.

Within the North`s military, Choe Ryong Hae, Ri Yong Gil and Jang Jong Nam have formed power elite groups. Choe is a standing member of the party politburo, while Ri and Jang are likely to advance to the politburo or the powerful National Defense Commission. A North Korea expert in Seoul said, "Kim Jong Un is depending on Choe Ryong Hae more than on any other member of the power elite."

However, there are conflicting views about Choe`s actual influence. A former South Korean government official who also served for Seoul`s intelligence authorities said, "With civilian backgrounds, Choe has too little influence with the North Korean military to be viewed as the No. 2 man in power." As Kim Jong Un repeatedly promotes or demotes top military officials in order to induce loyalty competition, some experts argue that Choe is merely one of the North`s military officials who can be purged any time. Ri Yong Ho, the North`s former military chief who competed with Choe for the No. 2 position in the military, was purged in July last year. The possibility cannot be ruled out that Choe will face the same fate as Ri.