SEOUL—North Korean authorities have ordered a wholesale purge of photos of and writings by or about three senior officials who are believed to have been executed, including the architect of the country’s recent botched currency reform, North Korean sources say.
An order was issued nationwide July 2 to collect all writings by the three officials, along with their photos, and turn them over to Bureau 79 of the Censorship Department which would dispose of them, one North Korean resident said in telephone interview.
National Defense Commission Chairman and “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il himself issued the directive, several sources said.
The order notably targeted writings and photos of former director of the Planning & Finance Department of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, Park Nam Ki, who was behind a disastrous effort to revalue the North Korean currency, they said.
It also targeted anything related to Kim Yong Sam, a former railways minister who allegedly failed to maintain locomotives kept in reserve for use in wartime, the sources said.
Kim, Park, and a third senior official, Lim Bong Yool, are believed to have been executed in March, according to several sources who asked not to be named.
Kim Yong Sam is reported to have been executed in March following an inspection by the National Defense Commission after celebrations to mark the country's 60th birthday in September 2008. He had served as railways minister since 1998.
Park Nam Ki is also thought to have been executed in March 2010, blamed for the country’s botched currency reform.
Trains stripped and useless
Kim was initially punished for “having failed to properly observe the 60th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK [North Korea] on Sept. 9, 2008,” one source said.
After the anniversary celebration, “He was placed under surveillance by the National Defense Commission, and in that process, inspectors discovered that he had ordered the scrapping of train locomotives kept in conservation for wartime operations in West Pyongyang and Hamhung.”
“He was then arrested by the State Security Department and executed this past March,” said the source, who asked not to be identified and couldn’t give more details.
Another North Korean living in Yangang province said Kim had no choice but to scrap about 100 trains after starving North Koreans took them apart to sell for scrap metal on the black market during the famine that killed as many of 2 million North Koreans in the 1990s.
“After the Arduous March [the North Korean famine of the 1990s], electricity was sparse, railroads were aging, and trains could not circulate properly,” the Yangang resident said.
Kim at one stage had written a book extolling North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, titled Toward a Transportation Revolution, but all copies of the works he authored were confiscated and destroyed, sources said.
No detailed information was available on Lim Bong Yool, who was said to have also been executed and is believed to have held a senior military position.
Original reporting for RFA’s Korean service by Moon Sung-hui. Korean service director: Max Kwak. Translated from the Korean by Grigore Scarlatoiu. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.