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The King Is Dead, Long Live The King
by James Dunnigan
January 28, 2014

In North Korea Kim Jong Un gave his annual New Year’s Day speech and said nice things about South Korea and referred to his recently executed uncle as part of the “factionist filth” that was being eliminated. Kim has a problem here as he has to denounce Jang in such a way that he does not do a lot more damage to what little faith people still have in the government. Most North Koreans are dismayed that such a senior official could be so corrupt that he was publically humiliated and then shot. Stories circulating in North Korea are that Jang had mismanaged Kim’s orders to take economic enterprises from military control and have the national government run them. This was very unpopular with the generals because enterprises like seafood (clams and crabs) and coal are mainly for export and some of the foreign currency is stolen. Now Jang had control of that cash. Jang also diverted rice intended for the military (to feed increasingly hungry troops) to sell on the markets and pocket much of the profits. Kim was not pleased with how Jang handled economic affairs, especially those involving the military. The investigation into Jang’s misdeeds took several months but most of the details, including how Jang dealt with it, are still unknown to the public. However within the government it was apparent that Jang had created bad feelings among the generals and Kim realized he had to choose sides. Showing impressive decisiveness and ruthlessness Kim sided with the generals and had Jang and those who assisted him in removing the assets from army control shot. It’s unclear if the army got back control of these lucrative assets, but at least the men who treated the military so badly paid for it. Public events since Jang’s execution show Kim surrounded more by generals, especially ones he has promoted in the last year. These new generals have reciprocated with public pledges of loyalty. The troops have followed suit, although they have little choice. All this appears to signal the completion of the transfer of power from the late Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un. It took two years and not a lot of firing squad activity. The king is dead, long live the king.

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