Report: 340 executions or purges during Kim Jong Uns five-year reign

Kim Ga Young  |  2017-01-03 16:51
Kim Jong Un has executed or purged approximately 340 people during the past five years of his reign, a national security think tank has reported. 

The Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS) recently released a white paper on Kim Jong Un's regime during the past 5 years, reporting that Kim Jong Un has committed crimes against humanity and executed or purged 340 high-ranking officials and residents, including his uncle Jang Song Thaek, in order to strengthen his inherited power. "The number of executions and purges of executives increased rapidly from 3 people in 2012 to 30 in 2013, 40 in 2014, and 60 in 2015," the paper states.

The paper goes on to note that the young leader appeared to refrain from executing high-ranking officials at the beginning of his reign but began extensively purging potential challengers from the third year since seizing power, and has executed approximately 140 people to date. Executives have faced various charges from improper behavior and corruption, to suggesting a differing opinion, and "anti-Party activities."

According to the report, some officials were brutally executed with anti-aircraft guns or flamethrowers to the extent that their corpses were unrecognizable. Observers in related fields were also forced to watch the scenes.

"Kim Jong Un temporarily halted purges since the execution of former defense chief Hyon Yong Chol in 2015, but resumed by executing three high-ranking officials this year. The scope of the executions has also expanded to all fields including the Party, the government, and the military. As his reign of terror continues, even the elite group is showing weakening loyalty, with statements such as, 'We are only pretending to be loyal out of fear, the report reads.

According to the white paper, the number of people executed publicly in 2016 was about 60 as of August. The regime has expanded the ruthless public executions to control people as the residents have been showing an increasing sense of dissatisfaction with the continuous economic hardships due to sanctions and the forced mobilizations for the 70-Day Battle and the 200-Day Battle, together with demands for loyalty contributions, it states.

"Even in Kim Jong Un's time, fearpolitik through executions still works as an effective method of strengthening the hereditary dictatorship. Public execution is a crime against humanity but the North Korean people are largely unaware of the concept of universal human rights," the paper added.

"North Korean state media are conversely promoting Kim Jong Un's image as a 'leader for the people' to turn attention away from his ruthless actions but the tried and tested avenues of image manipulation and fearpolitik are showing limits. As Kim Jong Un's reign of terror continued after the execution of Jang Song Thaek, there is an increasing sense of anxiety among cadres and the spirit of 'a community of common destiny' between the authorities is rapidly weakening."

The report continues, "It may seem that North Koreans have submitted to Kim Jong Un's reign of terror, but it may also be impossible to maintain power without periodic executions. The regime seems to have been caught in a vicious cycle where it must continue fearpolitik in order to restrain the upper echelons from rising against it, which conversely causes deeper resentment and anxiety.

In regards to economic improvement in North Korea, the paper notes that North Korea's current economic policy is more focused on earning the foreign currency required to maintain the regime rather than promoting changes in the market economy through planned reform and opening. The only way for North Korea to substantially develop its economy is to address the current state of isolation arising from its foreign policy," it reads.

According to its own analysis, the paper states that in the absence of an improvement in foreign relations, the only way for North Korea to develop its domestic economy is through mandatory mobilization of its residents. However, although North Korea's "speed battles" achieve some measure of development, it is unlikely to convert into substantial and inclusive development in the long term.

This process of short-term economic gains will only increase the burden on the people and shrink the domestic markets, further increasing discontent among the residents. Moreover, if the expected economic performance is not achieved, it may threaten the security of the Kim Jong Un regime, the report states.

The regime has squandered a massive amount of the countrys funds to control its people, developing nuclear weapons and missiles, and producing idolization materials over the past five years. It spent 300 million USD on 29 nuclear test and missile launch events, and also spent 180 million USD on building approximately 460 idolization figures including statues of the Kim family, while neglecting its own people."

The report also points out that the most prominent examples of the regime's misrule is "the insistence on simultaneous development of the economy and nuclear weapons," "chronic corruption throughout society," "denial of inter-Korean dialogue and disruption of relationships," "deceitful attraction of foreign investment without economic reform and opening," and "international isolation due to poor diplomacy."

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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