Nearly all former high-ranking officials of a dismantled North Korean government department formerly overseen by the executed uncle of leader Kim Jong Un have been demoted to the lowest ranks of the ruling Workers’ Party and excluded from future political appointments, sources say.
Executive officials of the party’s Administrative Department, which was disbanded in early February following the execution of Kim’s uncle Jang Song Thaek four months ago, have been reassigned to positions that rank them among “the lowest class of society,” the sources told RFA’s Korean Service.
The targeting of the officials by the Organization and Guidance Department which oversees the party’s personnel appointments and security affairs, follows a massive purge in the government and military last year that resulted in Jang’s execution.
“The senior officials have been placed in new urban construction and rural construction projects,” a source from North Hamgyong province said on condition of anonymity.
“Some officials who protested against the poor assignments were banished to farm villages and mines with their families.”
The source said that a friend who had once worked in a local branch of the Administrative Department had recently protested his placement at a rural construction project and refused to go work, questioning what he had done wrong to be demoted.
The friend had also sent a letter of protest to the party’s central complaint office, desperately calling for his reinstatement.
On March 22, the source said, party authorities called the former Administrative Department official in for a lengthy review of his case and three days later he was sent—along with his family—to a mine construction site in North Hamgyong’s Hoeryong city.
According to the source, other officials who had expressed dissatisfaction with their reassignments were “terrified” by the development and abandoned their complaints, returning to their jobs.
A source in Jagang province said former Administrative Department officials had been similarly reassigned to low-level positions in his region.
“Central party authorities directly placed the senior officials of the dismantled Administrative Department in the workplace, and those who disobeyed the order were immediately sent off to mines and forestry construction sites,” the source said.
According to the Jagang source, although the reassignment was humiliating, the former Administrative Department officials are more concerned that they will never again be given the opportunity to rise within the ranks of the party.
“These officials have been completely excluded from the political agenda,” he said.
The source likened their political status to that of the subordinates under former Minister of National Security Kim Chang Bong, who in late 1968 was purged by then leader Kim Il Sung as an anti-party counter-revolutionary for being an opponent of North Korea’s "juche" ideological system.
Subsequently, some 30,000 people who had served under Kim Chang Bong in the National Security Department were excluded from future promotion within the party, regardless of whether they were deemed politically innocent or not.
Sources said it was unclear whether the recent order to effectively end the political careers of the former senior officials under Jang in the Administrative Department had been given by Kim Jong Un.
In his New Year message broadcast on state TV, Kim Jong Un defended the execution of his uncle—who was married to his father’s sister—saying it was a "resolute action" and labeling Jang "scum."
Jang was also de facto number two under the junior Kim before his execution and was considered instrumental in the leader’s rise to power in December 2011.
Sources inside North Korea had told RFA earlier that Kim was already purging the country's military officer corps of personnel linked to Jang in a massive shake-up that had led to a freeze on military exercises and delayed replacement of cadres in the ruling party but raised promotion prospects for younger officers.
The Workers’ Party Administrative Department, which also oversaw paperwork traffic between the party’s Central Committee and the National Defense Commission, had been merged into the Organization and Guidance Department in 1990 before being restored under Jang in 2007.
Reported by Sung-hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Min Seon Kim. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.