Why nothing happened to Choe Ryong Hae ?

Recently, South Korean medias, announced that Choe Ryong Hae, the director of the powerful Political Bureau of the Korean Peopleąs Armz disappeared from the Political Scene. According to other sources, it rather seems that Choe Ryong Hae is alive, he’s however out of the scene for systemic reasons.

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Choe Ryong Hae

First overall, those who are the most important in the North Korean system are people who are very often unknown. I’m thinking to persons belonging to the Personnal Secretariat of Kim Jong Eun and to the Deputy Directors of 3 departments:

– The Organization and Leadership Department

– The Propaganda and Agitation Department

– The Military Affairs Department

What I mean ? I do believe that important persons in the DPRK are not always on the top of the screen. Therefore it may means that Choe Ryong Hae may continue to play a role from behind.

I do also firmly believe that the core DPRK elites are switching their positions by rotation. Observing the DPRK leadership (such as Kwak Pom Gi), it can be noticed that people are very often changing their positions. It’s done not only to weak their positions in some structures but also in order to increase their competencies. The previous mentioned Kwak Pom Gi was a manager of companies, a former KWP regional secretariat and currently he’s one of the key economists of the DPRK, I may also quote of of my favorite DPRK elites who is rarely seen: O Su Yong. O Su Yong is rarely seen in public but he’s one of the tenors of the DPRK economy.

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O Su Yong

I also think that the fact  that Choe Ryong Hae is not visible is also a measure of the Propaganda Department which want to enlight/reinforce the position of Kim Jong Eun as a key leader of the DPRK. The absence of Choe Ryong Hae  is underlining the power of the 32 years old Kim Jong Eun.

In a few words: Choe Ryong Hae is safe: don’t worry:)

Kim Jong Eun : Hit Me With a Baby One More Time!

On the 17th february, sorts matches between service personnel of the Command of the Navy and Command of the Air and Anti-Air Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on the occasion of the birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il (Day of the Shining Star).

Supreme Commander of the KPA Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, watched the matches together with Ri Sol Ju.

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Among the spectators were Ri Yong Gil (head of the DPRK army),Hwang Pyong So (Deputy Director of the Organization and Propaganda Department) Jang Jong Nam, So Hong Chan, Kim Myong Sik, Ri Pyong Chol (head of air-forces), Kim Rak Gyom (encircled in red), is the head of North Korea’s Strategic Rocket Forces and a recently nominated 3 stars general (Sangjang).

It seems also that Ri Sol Ju (encircled in green), the wife of Kim Jong Eun, is one more time pregnant as she’s wearing the same clothes as in october 2014. Kim Jong Eun has already one daughter. According to unnamed DPRK watchers, the pregnancy of Ri Sol Ju is not a surprise, as far as Kim Jong Eun needs a son in order to continue the Kim dynasty. In cas of troubles the Organization and Leadership Department will solve the issue.

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Ri Sol Ju is encircled in green.

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Ri Sol Ju (as of october 2013)

La zone économique spéciale de Rason est sous contrôle et surveillance du PTC

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source de l’illustration: Chosunexchange)

Suite à la disparition de Jang Sung Thaek, les employés de la zone de Rason risquent d’avoir du souci à se faire. Cette zone économique spéciale (dans laquelle des investisseurs étrangers peuvent bénéficier de conditions préférables pour investir dans divers secteurs de l’économie) gérée conjointement par les nord-coréens (par le Parti et par d’autres structures politiques) et par certains chinois d’origine coréenne, est actuellement sous surveillance des cadres du département de l’Organisation et de la Direction du Parti du Travail Coréen afin de vérifier la loyauté de responsables de cette zone économique (nombreux d’entre eux étaient directement rattachés au cercle d’influence de Jang Sung Thaek). Ces inspections sont à mettre en relation avec le lancement de l’approvisionnement en énergie de la zone directement de la Chine et par une entité économique chinoise. D’une part, il semblerait que le PTC chercherait à mieux surveiller les flux chinois à Rason, d’autre part, l’exécution de Jang Sung Thaek a entrainé de nombreux changements de cadres supérieurs, ce qui risque de faire basculer le sort des sociétés étrangères présentes à Rason.

Réouverture d’un restaurant nord-coréen en Hollande

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Un restaurant de la chaine Haedanghwa a rouvert ses portes en Hollande. Bien qu’un des restaurants de cette chaine (il s’agirait même d’un chaebol nord-coréen) ait déjà existé en Hollande ((une analyse de mon camarade Michael Madden est disponible ici), il est à noter que dorénavant, le restaurant est uniquement géré par des nord-coréens et non coopération avec des hollandais. Les cadres (une des responsables de cette société est encerclée en rouge sur la photographie) de cette société connaissent bien les réalités du monde occidental. Nombreux d’entre eux ont été formés dans le cadre de formations hors du territoire nord-coréen.

Suite des inspections de nuits de Kim Jong Eun : visite au mont Madu

Kim Jong Eun a continué d’effectuer ses inspections nocturnes (voir le texte Revue de la section des parachutistes de l’armée populaire nord-coréenne).

. Le 23 janvier 2014, il a été vu au mont Madu, lieu au sein duquel il a observé les exercices tactiques de l’unité numéro 323 de l’APS.

Je tiens à faire remarquer tout particulièrement la présence de Ri Pyong Chol (encerclé de rouge – ancien chef-adjoint de l’APC et actuel chef de l’état major des forces aériennes nord-coréennes) qui semble être un tuteur de Kim Jong Eun. La rotation des postes de ce général 4 étoiles est également à souligner et confirme ma thèse qu’une dégradation de grade ne signifie pas automatiquement qu’un politique considéré disparait automatiquement de la scène politique nord-coréenne.

Lors de cet événement fut également présent Hwang Pyong So, directeur adjoint du département de l’organisation et de la direction (CC PTC), Man Won Chun (le directeur adjoint des finances du PTC et responsable de projets architecturaux de la RPDC) et d’autres militaires nord-coréens (Ri Yong Gil (chef de l’état major nord-coréen et Kim Yong Chol -encerclé de vert-, responsable du bureau de la reconnaissance de l’APC et chef adjoint de l’état major nord-coréen).

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Revue de la section des parachutistes de l’armée populaire nord-coréenne

Dans le cadre de ses inspections militaires, Kim Jong-eun a effectué une revue de la section des parachutistes de l’armée populaire nord-coréenne.

A noter la présence de Hwang Pyong-so (en rouge-vice directeur du département de l’organisation et de la direction, CC PTC) ainsi que de Ri Pyong-chol (en vert-responsables des forces aériennes nord-coréennes). O Keum-chol, le frère de Ri Pyong-chol a été choisi comme victime des purges suite au décès de Jang Sung-thaek. En réalité il n’en est rien. Le duo O/Ri continue de gérer l’armée nord-coréenne. Les purgés de Jang sont en général affiliés au département économique du PTC et aux structures économiques nord-coréennes (je pense tout particulièrement à Ri Kwang-gun). A noter également que Hwang Pyong-so ne dispose pas de grade militaire (est-ce une affaire de jours/semaines/mois ?).

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Lors de cette inspection furent présent les nouveaux ténors de l’armée nord-coréenne : Ri Yong-gil (chef de l’armée), Choe Ryong-hae (responsable du BP de l’APC), Pyon In-son (chef de l’état major, un proche du défunt Kim Jong-il), Kim Kyok-shik (ancien chef de l’APC)

PS : pour ceux qui sont perdus avec les abréviations je vous conseille de vous rendre à la page abréviations.

Insanity or Part of a Plan? Prospects for Changes to North Korean Domestic and Foreign Policy

Ever since previous North Korean leader Kim Jong-il passed away in December 2011, concerns about the new North Korean regime have been growing. Although the international community has worried mainly about the country’s foreign policy, especially nuclear and missile threats, recent news about a purge in the North Korean leadership has brought to the fore the question of the regime’s internal stability. Kim Jong-un has been steadily building a new system of governance, giving more power to the Korean Workers’ Party apparatus at the expense of the armed forces. He has also shown interest in boosting North Korea’s economy. In foreign and security policy, however, in the short term, North Korea is likely to continue on its previous uncompromising course.

The next issue of PISM Policy Papers by Nicolas Levi.

You may download the paper here

Jang Song Thaek and his family: who are they ?

Jang Song Thaek was an advisor to Kim Jong Il and probably the second most powerful person in North Korea. It is interesting to see that members of his family also hold important positions. This concerns not only those who are alive, but also those who are deceased. Unlike Jang, who was a civilian officer of the Korean Workers Party – although now a general of the North Korean Army – his older brothers (Jang Sung U, Jang Sung Hyeol, Jang Sung Kil, Jang Sung Seop and Jang Sung Ho) made their career in the North Korean Army.

One of the nephews of Jang Song Thaek is Jang Yong Chol, whose father was the late Jang Song U. He was the current ambassador of the DPRK in Malaysia. It is also interesting to note that he was a former officer of the North Korean army. His career in the army was enabled by the support of his father. According to some sources, he is a one-star general. Jang Yong Chol also had a career in the Kim Il Sung Youth League, where he cooperated with Ji Jae Ryong (the current North Korean ambassador to China) and Choe Ryong Hae (the head of the political bureau of the North-Korean Army). Jang Yong Chol’s brother is an officer in a North-Korean trading company.

A son-in-law of Jang Song Thaek, Jeon Yong Jin, was the current ambassador of North Korea to Cuba. He was previously Vice Chairman of the DPRK Foreign Culture Liaison Committee. Jeon Yong Jin’s father is Jeon Hee Jeong, a close advisor to the Kim family on foreign affairs and a member of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party. Jeon Hee Jeong is said to hold a position in the Personal Secretariat of Kim Jong Eun. It should be noted that Jeon Yong Jin was a tutor of economics to the son of Jang Song Thaek: Jang Song Kim. Both of them lived in Sweden. His role should be compared to Ri Chol, the former ambassador of North Korea to Switzerland, who educated Kim Jong Eun (the current leader of North Korea) in economic matters. Jeon Yong Jin is also a trusted advisor of Ri Ryong Nam, the minister of foreign trade of the DPRK.

These elements in Jang Song Thaek indicate to us that Jang Song Thaek and his relatives have great knowledge about international economics. Most of them have lived or currently live abroad, and also manage foreign currency businesses. In my humble opinion, I believe that they are key-decision makers with regard to large-scale economical projects that involve North Korea. In this regard, it was not a surprise to see Naguib Sawiris, the CEO of Orascom, with Kim Jong Il and Jang Song Thaek in January 2011.

Another important conclusion may be drawn: in a new North Korea, we could imagine the relatives of Jang Song Thaek controlling the economic direction of the country. Who knows ? They may be the key figures who will introduce dramatic changes into the North Korean economy. Some of Jang Song Thaek’s brothers who served in the army also lead North Korean companies trading under military auspices. Regarding the last events, that’s rather impossible but who knows ?

This piece is a modified version of the one published at New Focus International, a website managed by North Korean defectors.