The North Korean regime appears to have started a new reign of terror to consolidate the succession of leader Kim Jong-il's son Jong-un.
The South Korean government and a North Korean source on Wednesday said public executions more than tripled last year. And increasing numbers of North Koreans have been killed trying to cross the Apnok (or Yalu) or Duman (or Tumen) River after the regime gave a shoot-to-kill order. The party and military, meanwhile, are engulfed in a whirlwind of purges, observers believe.
A diplomatic source familiar with North Korean affairs Wednesday said there were 60 confirmed public executions in the North last year, more than triple the number of 2009. "Since last year, the regime has put a notice on bulletin boards warning that those who use Chinese-made mobile phones or illegally circulate dollars face public execution, the source said.
Another source familiar with North Korean affairs said, "It's rumored that Kim Jong-un has called for 'gunshots across the country.' Kim Jong-il did exactly the same thing when he took power." [...]
And the military is being purged of unreliable elements. Quoting an internal North Korean source last Saturday, Free North Korea Radio, a shortwave broadcaster in the South, said the number of inmates has soared at a labor camp under the Ministry of People's Armed Forces in North Hamgyong Province. It said many of the inmates are former army generals who have been purged by Kim Jong-un.
More on the high-level purges here:
A high-level North Korean source said that nearly 200 senior officials were executed or detained by the State Security Department in early December last year. They include many senior officials of trading companies under the military and the party, such as the head of Sogyong Trading Corporation under the party's Financial and Accounting Department; the head of "No. 54" Trading Company under the Ministry of People's Armed Forces; Pak Jong-su, the chief of a military-run coal trading company; the head of the general bureau of fuel oil; and Ri Jong-ho, the head of Taehung Trading Company....
The purge was conducted with zeal by the senior deputy chief of the State Security Department U Dong-chuk, who discussed details of the plan with Kim father and son.
We must at all costs avoid cheap and offensive jokes based on the names of these individuals. U Dong-chuk is a perfectly fine moniker. A repulsive human being, mind.
Great Leader Kim Il Sung, despite his political record, always managed to appear distinguished and paternal. He looked the part that he chose to play: father of the nation.
Son and Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il has never looked remotely distinguished, or remotely paternal. It's difficult to take him seriously as some kind of Dr Evil though: he looks more like a pudgy and somewhat grumpy corner shop owner, without an ounce of charisma. If the Great Leader's reputation is to some extent understandable, the Dear Leader's is a total mystery - unless you're aware of the terror lurking beneath the pomp and ritual of North Korean society.
This latest one, though, Kim Jong-un: yes, finally, it's all there, out in the open. He looks like what he is: a ruthless psychopath.