More from the excellent Daily NK, with its anonymous sources reporting on the real opinions of the people of North Korea, away from official circles. This time it's about the execution reported last week of defence minister Hyon Yong Chol - supposedly in dramatic and gruesome fashion with an anti-aircraft gun in front of a Pyongyang crowd, after being caught dozing off at a military event.
News of the execution of Hyon Yong Chol, North Korea’s defense minister, is traveling swiftly throughout the country, while lectures for military cadre have been propagating Hyon’s purge on account of “insubordinance to the country’s monolithic leadership,” Daily NK has learned.
Among ordinary members of the public, Kim Jong Un’s execution of high-level officials to consolidate his power has been dubbed a practice of “cannibalistic politics.”
“People in rural areas are yet unaware of the public shooting of the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces [MPAF], but rumors have started to spread in Pyongyang and Sinuiju,” a source from North Pyongan Province told Daily NK over the weekend. “The rumors are spreading quickly, so within a few days people in provincial areas will know of his execution.”
He added, “It has been the norm for hundreds of other military cadres to be purged if a high-level official such as the defense chief is kicked out or executed due the country’s practice of guilt-by-association.” This applies not only the core members of the MPAF, but also heads of businesses affiliated with the military and donju [newly affluent middle class]earning in foreign currency, described by the source as “shaking with fear” after the most recent execution.
The vast majority of people lack interest in matters taking place within the military, but those running in more socially aware crowds are calling the public execution an act that goes against all norms, "abhorrent just like the Simhwajo incident from the ‘90s (a series of purges carried out in the late ‘90s to consolidate Kim Jong Il’s power),” according to the source.
“Most people know that as a child, Kim Jong Un had the tendency of getting angry and tormenting others around him if he lost at any sports game,” he said, adding that "his regime is even more brutal than his father’s songun [military-first politics] dictatorship."
The uncertainty blanketing the situation--that is, how many other high-ranking officials will be killed following the execution of the MPAF leader--makes the country feel like "a ticking time bomb," the source explained. “Those who genuinely care about the country and express their opinions are considered unfaithful and executed. Opportunists who pander to the dictatorship on the other hand are promoted as loyal servants; Kim Jong Un is just like the leader from 'The Emperor's New Clothes," he asserted.
“It is obvious how the authorities will put a spin on the news of Hyon’s execution once it spreads nationwide. When Suh Kwan Hee, the Party secretary in charge of agriculture, was executed for allegedly working as a spy for the U.S. during the Korean War, people believed the accusations. But no one believes things like that anymore,” he elaborated. “There is an adage that says that even worms writhe when being trampled on. Similarly, if this practice of cannibalistic politics continues, resistance may overpower fear.”
Times - and opinions - have changed. The worms are turning.