North Korea’s Kim Warns Against ‘Cliques,’ Sparks Fears of Purge

2016-12-15
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Kim Jong Un inspects a Korean People's Army unit in an undated file photo.
Kim Jong Un inspects a Korean People's Army unit in an undated file photo.
AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned high-ranking local leaders against forming “cliques,” raising fears among ruling party officials and the country’s military that a purge may soon be launched against them, North Korean source say.

Directives sent out on Dec. 9 were delivered in one province by a party chairman in an unusual move signaling the message’s importance, a party official in Yanggang province, bordering China, told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Ri Sang Won, the Yanggang provincial party chairman, delivered the message in person,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The people who deliver Kim Jong Un’s directives are usually vice ministers from the research office of the [local] Department of Propaganda,” the source said.

“Since it is very rare for the chairman of the provincial ruling party council to deliver a message in person, this means the matter is highly important.”

The directive’s main point was that the forming of “cliques”—unofficial alliances pursuing private economic or political interests—by provincial officials and officers of the courts should be strictly suppressed, RFA’s source said.

Warning sternly in his directive against those who “stick together and speak in whispers,” Kim denounced the forming of “little kingdoms” by officials who then bring subordinates into line with their objectives, the source said.

Fears of a purge


Also speaking to RFA, a source in Jagang province with connections to the military said that the same message, though addressed primarily to civilian officials, had also been delivered to senior military commanders in the region.

“The commanders are now very afraid that this directive may be a warning of a coming purge,” the source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Military leaders were also alarmed by the absence of high-ranking officers during a visit by Kim to Samjiyon county near Mt. Paektu in Yanggang at the end of November, RFA’s source said.

Though Kim’s directive did not point directly to concerns about the military, and focused instead on civilian officials at the local level, “this could easily be a trick,” the source said.

“Kim could carry out a purge by mobilizing his Guard Command in a surprise attack while the military’s leaders are feeling at ease.”

“Honestly, there is no place on earth where corruption is worse than in North Korea’s military,” the source said. “And the fact that Kim Jong Un did not directly mention this is making the commanders even more anxious and afraid.”

Reported by Sung-hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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