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Kim Jong-un is purging, executing again: NIS

Nov 04,2017
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has resumed purges and execution of top officials “to make an example,” the National Intelligence Service told lawmakers on Thursday.

The National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee was briefed at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service on the latest information about the reclusive communist regime. Lawmakers listened to the information in a closed session and later shared it with media.

Rep. Kim Byung-kee of the Democratic Party, Rep. Yi Wan-young of the Liberty Korea Party and Rep. Lee Tae-kyu of the People’s Party created a summary of the briefing they offered to media.

According to the summary, several executives of the Rodong Sinmun, an official newspaper of the Workers’ Party, were ordered to undergo “revolutionary measures” for an editorial gaffe. A celebration of a missile launch was not printed on the front page of the newspaper, prompting Kim to punish them.

Revolutionary measures are disciplinary actions against senior officials. They can be sent to remote areas or factories to do hard labor or forced into ideological re-education including writing letters of self-criticism.

The NIS also told the lawmakers that the political commissar of an antiaircraft artillery unit was executed for corruption. The intelligence agency, however, did not make public the specific timing of the punishment or the identity of the disciplined official.

Kim took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011. The young ruler carried out a series of shocking executions of top officials, including Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and political guardian. The Institute for National Security Strategy of the NIS said last year that 340 people were executed or purged during the first five years of Kim’s reign.

Kim’s most recent purge was the dismissal of General Kim Won-hong as minister of state security last January. Kim suspended his reign of terror for months, but “recently strengthened surveillance of top officials and resumed executions and punishments to set an example,” the NIS told the lawmakers.

North Korea is also continuing preparations for nuclear and missile tests, the NIS said. “There is a possibility of a missile launch as frequent movements of vehicles were recently detected at a missile research facility in Pyongyang,” it said. “The North will continue additional nuclear tests and efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheads.”

The North is pursuing a missile program at a research and development facility in Sanum-dong, Pyongyang, the NIS said. Earlier last month, movements of trucks were detected at the institute.

The NIS said that the North may begin reprocessing activity of spent fuel roads from its reactor in Yongbyon by the end of this year. The reprocessing activity, if carried out, will increase its stockpile of nuclear material for weapons.

The underground nuclear test facility in Punggye-ri, Kilju of North Hamgyong is also being prepared to carry out another nuclear test at any time, the NIS told lawmakers. Tunnel 2, where the sixth nuclear test was conducted in September, was believed to be damaged but Tunnel 3 remains ready, the NIS said.

The North’s hacking attempts against the South’s financial institutions increased after international sanctions on the regime limited its labor exports, the NIS said. Virtual currency exchanges, banks and securities firms were the targets of the North’s repeated attempts to steal money.

“If sanctions are faithfully implemented, the North will face an economic crisis as serious as the Arduous March after next year,” the NIS said. “The North’s economic growth rate will likely plummet to negative 5 percent in 2018 from 3.9 percent in 2016.”

The Arduous March is North Korea’s term for a period of economic crisis in the North from 1994 to 1998. At least 330,000 died from starvation during the period.

The NIS also briefed lawmakers about its terrorism prevention measures ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Games early next year. Since 2010, 71 people from nine counties were deported for alleged connections to international terrorist organizations, it said.

BY SER MYO-JA, JEONG YONG-SU [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]