Interesting, from the Daily NK:
Jung Hye Sung (71), a former reporter for Korean Central News Agency, fled North Korea in 1996 and subsequently settled in South Korea. He recently sat down with Daily NK to discuss his new book: "The Unfortunate Jang Song Thaek."
The following are excerpts from the interview, which has been edited for clarity.
-You have a really interesting resume, did it help in authoring this book? Was there a special motivation behind writing it?
North Korea claims all defectors are traitors, and I wanted to make a strong argument against that, revealing the reasons behind my choice to leave North Korea after having devoted most of my life to being a loyal follower of the 'socialist system.' I wanted to show that the true traitors were Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. My family were devoted followers of the socialist system, however Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il betrayed the system and chose the path of misanthropy (contempt for humanity). I defected as I could not bear living in such conditions and wanted to show the people of both North and South Korea the true nature of the present North Korean regime....
-The novel also reveals that North Korea became a regime that focused on rank and having the right family identity, rather than the original propaganda of being a class-free society after the 25th of May, 1967. What can you tell us about that?
The 25 of May, 1967 was indeed very politically significant. The National Council announced the concluded statements made during the 15th session on that day. The statements were a veiled purge of Park Kum Chul and other members of the Kapsan faction, claiming that they harbored capitalistic, revisionism and feudal Confucianism ideologies. Although Kim Il Sung was proclaimed to be the dictator during the early years of the regime, some democratic vestiges still remained in the party. After this purge, he was firmly established as the totalitarian dictator and the last traces of democracy were stamped out, with all issues being determined by Kim Il Sung.
-Towards the end of 1980, socialist countries were overthrown with China and Vietnam preventing a revolution by introducing economic reforms. So your novel depicts Kim Jong Il as being aware of the need for reforms but was unable to do so?
To put it simply, Kim Jong Il had to shoulder the burden of capitalizing on his father’s achievements to ensure a smooth hereditary succession. Although he was aware that most of his father’s achievements were forged, he had to add further prominence to them as there were many surviving members of the Manchu anti-Japanese partisan movement who fought alongside his father. Furthermore, there were members that actually outranked his father during the anti-Japanese movement who could have been tempted to muscle in on the dictatorship as they had contributed more than Kim Il Sung to establishing the North Korean regime. As Kim Jong Il had contributed almost nothing in comparison, he was unable to introduce any reforms. In fact, he had to lend further prominence to his father’s achievements as any reformation would reveal all of Kim Il Sung’s achievements to be lies, which would jeopardize his own authority as a hereditary leader.
-The sudden execution of Jang Song Thaek in 2013 was a huge shock. While the novel depicts his execution as a result of proclaiming the need for reforms, was he actually involved in any revolutionary movement for reforms?
Yes he actually was. After the mass starvation in late 1990, North Korea’s economy looked to be a lost cause and he was assigned by Kim Jong Il to look into improving the economic situation. He presented his reforms on the 1st of July, 2002, where he stressed the need to develop the Hwanggumpyong islands. However, he faced severe obstacles due to adverse relations with China and internal strife with the Korean Workers' Party Organization Guidance Department [OGD]. No matter how influential he was, no individual could go up against the OGD.
-You have personally witnessed the purges and intense internal conflicts occurring during the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il regimes. How do you feel about the purges and factional strife in North Korea under Kim Jong Un's regime?
There seems to be no difference from the past. Although the 33-year-old Kim Jung Un proclaims his 'love' for the people and acts as the supreme leader, the OGD is pulling the strings. They are the ones who make all the plans for operations and purges. Although North Korea claims that Kim Jung Un makes all the decisions, the actual scope of all the decisions made is determined by the OGD. There have been many more purges even after the execution of Jang Song Thaek, and although it may be reported that those executions and purges are due to falling out of favor with Kim Jong Un, the final decisions lie with the OGD. They control the national party and also the political scene in North Korea.
-There has been much speculation that the present regime is in danger due to the acute increase in defections. What is your personal opinion?
I find it hard to agree with such speculation. Although the number of defectors may increase sharply, North Korea’s regime will not fall lightly. As long as the OGD exists, the regime will continue to survive. Even if there are any indications of danger toward the regime emerging, they will nip it in the bud. Jang Song Thaek’s execution was orchestrated by the organization, because they knew that any reforms would endanger the regime.