Some left but some stay: a quick review of the election to the SPA

Analyzing the list of people who were chosen at the new SPA (Supreme People Assembly of North Korea) election, we can notice that as usually the same people were chosen as in previous elections except some little changes. It would be a great challenge to analyze each person chosen to the SPA, therefore I would like to provide some information concerning only a minor part of these people.

The Jang dream team

Some people associated to Jang Sung Thaek (the uncle of Kim Jong Eun who was executed in December 2013) were chosen to the SPA session including:

Ri Chol – the former tutor of Kim Jong Eun – who was supposedly dead…according to South Korean newspapers.

Ji Jae Ryong – the DPRK ambassador to China- was also chosen. Ji Jae Ryong is considered as a former friend of Jang Sung Thaek. Jang Sung Thaek was responsible for his nomination as an ambassador of the DPRK to the former Yugoslavia in the 80’s.

Ri Kwang Gun – a NK technocrat who worked in Germany and Bangladesh – was also reelected. He was responsible for some of the business of the Jang family. Maybe some of them had betrayed Jang ? That’s also a possibility which may explain that they are still alive (I personally do believe that the reality is more complicated).

Interestingly Mun Kyong Dok (the head of the KWP in Pyongyang and a jovial friend of Jang Sung Thaek) was not elected.

Other nominations

Long-term associates of Kim Jong Il were reelected. This was done in order to maintain the Pact of Stability between Kim Jong Eun and the DPRK leadership. Among them we can quote:

Ri Ul Sol, Yang Hong Sop,  Jo Yon Jun, O Kuk Ryol, Kim Yong Ju (Kim Jong Eun uncle and Kim Il Sung brother), Kim Kyok Shik, Ju Kyu Jang, Kim Yong Dae, Kim Yong Nam, Kang Sok Ju, Ro Tu Chol, Pyong In Son, Choe Pu Il, Pak Pong Ju, Choe Hwi, Ma Won Chun, Jon Yon Jon, Kim Kye Kwan, An Kum Chol, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Yong Chun, Sim Chol Ho, O Il Jong, Hwang Pyong So, Ri Kil Song (the former procurator of the DPRK, a 90 years old politician), Kim Wan Su, Kim Ki Nam, Pak Ui Chun, O Kum Chol, Thae Jong Su, O Su Yong (one of my favorite politician in terms of influence over the DPRK)…and many others

Own conclusions

The family of Kim Jong Eun is not fully visible in the list of SPA delegates. Kim Jong Eun was selected at the 111 place (is it not sweet ?), Kim Jong Nam, an enemy of Kim Jong Eun and a half-brother of the leader, was not chosen. He’s supposedly under the protection of the Chinese police. How long ? We do not know.

Foire Internationale à Pyongyang

La foire bi-annuelle de Pyongyang a eu lieu en fin septembre 2013. Lors de celle-ci furent présentes des sociétés venat de Chine, Russie, Allemagne, Malaisie, Mongolie et bien entendu de Corée du Nord. Ont pu etre remarqué lors de ces foires les personnes de Pak Pong Ju, premier minister nord-coréen, Kang Sok Ju, vice premier ministre, Ri Ryong Nam et Ri Chol. Tous deux cherchent à attirer des investisseurs en Corée du Nord. Ils sont tout particuliérement liés à des mouvances chinoises. Plus de 57 000 produits étaient présentés lors de cette foire.


Entourés de rouge de gauche à droite, Ri Ryong Nam et Kang Sok Ju lors de l’inauguration de cette foire

Les élites nord-coréennes de la première génération

Ci contre ma derniére publication pour le site „New Focus International”, un site internet géré par des réfugiés nord-coréens. Le texte concerne la première génération de leaders nord-coréens. Il est disponible icileaders

Des erreurs de jugement concernant le leadership nord-coréen ?

Le site qui est géré par mon collègue Michael Madden présente de manière très intéressante les élites nord-coréennes. Nous y avons un aperçu tres complet des élites de ce pays. Observer les photographies constitue un premier pas pour analyser les élites nord-coréennes. Il ne faut cependant pas oublier qu’il existe de nombreuses élites nord-coréennes puissantes que l’on ne voit pas a l’avant de la scène. Ce sont en général des personnes plus jeunes qui dirigent des organisations cruciales de la Corée du Nord. La futur Corée du Nord semblera ainsi être gérée par ces personnes et non par les élites que nous voyons le plus souvent dans les medias nord-coréens.

En effet on observant les élites nord-coréennes on remarque que ce sont toujours les mêmes personnes qui apparaissent. Il faut souligner que pas uniquement elles gèrent la Corée du Nord mais également leurs familles. Les familles les plus importantes en Corée du Nord sont celles de Kim Jong Eun, O Kuk Ryol (un militaire nord-coréen), Ri Jae Il (un officier de la propagande nord-coréenne), Kang Sok Ju (vice premier ministre nord-coréen). Comme par hasard ceux-ci sont tous liés à la famille des Kims (par mariages). Il est difficile d’obtenir les noms de ces nouvelles élites qui gèrent réellement la Corée du Nord. Un exemple de « nouvelle élite » nord-coréenne est la jeune personne (à gauche encadré sur la photographie ci-contre) qui officie au centre de liaison de Pan Mun Jon.


Source de la photographie :
Pour plus d’informations à ce sujet je vous conseille les lignes suivantes :

A Big Day for the Elite Clans

Entering 2012, Daily NK has been working harder than ever to bring new voices to discussion of the Korean Peninsula’s future, and as part of this effort is pleased to be able to publish a new guest column by Nicolas Levi, a Polish analyst working with the Poland Asia Research Center.

Tomorrow, the 4th Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference will take place in Pyongyang. The main event may be the 15th, the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, but for younger politicians from the main ruling clans, it is this chance to move up the North Korean hierarchy that really matters.

The family was and still is the basic component of social life in Korea, and its perpetuation is intrinsic to patriarchal Confucianism. In a Confucian patriarchal family, the family is an entity more valuable than its individual members. The family group is also inseparably identified with the clan. In the time of the Three Kingdoms (Koguryo, Baekje and Shilla), each of the three had rigid social hierarchies in which a small, powerful ruling class was drawn from a small number of families.

Equally, to ensure the continuity of the North Korean system, key-members of certain clans hand favorable jobs to the children of former and current power players as a matter of course. This is done above all to continue the clan power structure. Elders play a pivotal role in oriental culture, and in North Korea they sit deep in the main organizational structures to act as patriarchs.

Therefore, while it is true that North Korea is still primarily in the hands of the Kim family, there are other families that also hold a large slice of the power, and this is something which is often forgotten.

Of course, the most important family is that of Kim Il Sung. People from this top clan are present in the leadership of a dizzying number of the most important political, economic and military structures. Kim Jong Eun, in spite of the fact that he’s only around 29, is already Supreme Commander of the Chosun People’s Army and a 4-star general. His cousin Kim Il Cheol was formerly Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and another cousin, Ri Yong Mu, is a current member of the National Defense Commission (NDC), the supreme decision making body under the North Korean constitution. Ri Myeong Su is the Minister of People’s Safety (and a distant uncle of Kim Jong Eun’s); Kim Kyung Hee, Kim Jong Eun’s aunt, is at the head of the Party Light Industry Department and is a 4-star general (in spite of what is said, she does have a military background, especially in nuclear issues), while her husband Jang Song Taek is among the most powerful Party men of all.

Elsewhere, Kang Dok Su, a former media boss, is Kim Jong Eun’s cousin, Kang Yeong Seop (a distant uncle) is the leader of the Christian Association of North Korea, Ri Myeong San (a cousin) is the Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, and Yang Hyeong Sop (a cousin of Kim Jong Il’s) is at the top of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North Korean parliament. Kim Il San, the former mayor of Kaesong, is also a cousin of Kim Jong Eun’s, while the family of Kim Ok, Kim Jong Il’s fourth and last wife, is also well placed at the head of educational institutions.

That’s not all; Kang Kwang Ju and Kim Yang Geon, also Kim Jong Il’s cousins, are directors of the United Front Department. Kim Seol Song, Kim Jong Eun’s half-sister, is high in the Party Munitions Industry Department.

But other families also have plenty of power. The second most important family is that of the aforementioned Jang Sung Taek. People who belong to this family occupy various positions in diverse fields. First, there is Jang himself. He’s vice chairman of the NDC and at the head of the Taepung Investment Bank. He’s also married to Kim Kyung Hee, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il, and deals with economic issues concerning the SEZ at Rasun. In the past he was director of the most important organization in North Korea: the Organization and Guidance Department. But it is not only Jang Sung Taek that wields power; his brothers, Jang Sung U, Jang Sung Hyeol, Jang Sung Kil, Jang Sung Seop and Jang Sung Ho, are all highly placed in the military, too.

There is also Kang Young Cheol, who since 2010 has been the DPRK Ambassador to Malaysia. He is a nephew of Jang Sung Taek’s (the late Jang Song U was his father). Jeon Yong Jin, the son-in-law of Jang Sung Taek, is the DPRK Ambassador to Cuba (he was previously Vice Chairman of the DPRK Foreign Culture Liaison Committee). Jeon Yong Jin’s father (the husband of Jang Song Ae, the sister of Jang Sung Taek) is Jeon Hee Jeong, a close advisor to the Kim family on foreign affairs. He notably advised Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and still does so for Kim Jong Eun. Jon Hee Jeong is the Director of the Foreign Affairs Department at the National Defense Commission and an officer in the Personal Secretariat of Kim Jong Eun. He’s a close associate of Jang Sung Taek’s.

Jang Sung Taek’s children also work (or, in one tragic case, worked) in the Party structure. His daughter Jang Kum Song studied abroad in France and worked for a time in the Organization and Guidance Department. However, because her parents wouldn’t accept her relationship with a foreigner, she committed suicide in Paris in 2006.

Another key family is that of Kim Yong Nam. Kim himself, 87 years old, is the country’s ceremonial head. His half-brother Kim Ki Nam is in the History Department of the Workers’ Party Central Committee. Kim Ki Nam’s wife is the director of the Academy of Social Sciences. His deceased brother Kim Du Nam was not only a member of the Party Central Military Commission but also President of Kumsusan Memorial Palace and chief of the Office of Military Officers in Kim Jong Il’s Personal Secretariat. This family has very close social and political ties to a number of the early pupils of Mangyongdae School, too, including General O Kuk Ryol. Kim Du Nam and O Kuk Ryol constituted in the past a huge faction in the North Korean military leadership.

The family of O Kuk Ryol deals mostly with military rather than economics issues. O Jum Song, his father, was a partisan with Kim Il Sung but was killed in the 30’s. One of his sons-in-law, So Ho Won, is the Vice Chairman of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. O Se Won, his son, is at the head of a foreign trading corporation. One daughter is a screenwriter for Korean Film Studio.

The family of Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, the army Chief of Staff, is one of the newer big players. Ri Yong Ho is not only a close advisor to Kim Jong Eun but also a key military official who was on the funeral committee of Kim Jong Il. His father was Ri Pong Su, the North Korean Minister of Justice in the 60’s. Ri is also present in the structures of the most important military power bases. Ri Son Il, one of his sons, works as an official with a foreign trade company.

When taken in total, we can say that it is these families that really rule North Korea; in each case, they have members in all the main political, economical and military organizations. It is these families that we can expect to rally round Kim Jong Eun and continue the regime for the foreseeable future. Admittedly, in the longer term there is the possibility of a power struggle if any of them raise doubts about the current leadership of Kim Jong Eun, but for now all appears safe.

In my opinion, we need to see the North Korean regime as led in this way by a collective, or more precisely by a second and third generation collective leadership of families. This collective leadership is very different from the previous one, however, because in previous years only people belonging to the older generations worked at the top. The current deaths of elders is accelerating the movement of younger elite figures to key posts, and that is something to watch out for.

The older leaders are important, however, as in North Korea they play the role of ‘system guardians’. This means they surround and protect the younger generation. Such alliances are complicated by questions of leadership stability; nevertheless, I strongly hold the view that these major families will reinforce their presence in the main institutions and business entities going forward. These people are in multiple roles already and will continue to be given new ones. The previously mentioned Ri Son Il, Kim Seol Song, Kang Young Chol and Jang Kim Song may well be nominated to the SPA. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kim Jong Eun’s sister, Kim Yeo Jung, play a role in the next SPA session.

The real key question, however, is this; will the leadership be able to function via the existence of this two-three generation family structure, and what capacity for cooperation will there be between the younger elite figures after the death of the last of the first generation leaders?

Futurs dirigeants ou futurs ennemis ?

Lundi 18 février, nous avons appris le décès de l’ancienne vice-première ministre nord-coréenne Kim Rah Hui. Les décès d’élites nord-coréennes ne constituent pas des événements si cruciaux que cela en Corée du Nord dans la mesure où les défunts ont préparé “le terrain” pour leurs progénitures. En effet, comme je l’ai argumente dans le texte Daily NK – A Big Day for the Elite Clans la Corée du Nord est non seulement gérée par la famille de Kim Jong Eun, mais aussi par d’autres familles. La question suivante qui se pose est la suivante: est-ce que ces familles luttent entre elles ? L’histoire nord-coréenne a démontre que certaines personnes ont été écarté en raison de leur appartenance a une famille (le cas le plus célèbre est celui de la famille de la seconde femme de Kim Il Sung (la dite side branch – Gyeotgaji)).


La famille de O Kuk Ryol ? (source: Radio Free Asia)

Dans ce cas, ses enfants ont perdu temporairement de leur influence en Corée du Nord (ses enfants étaient des éminents dignitaires du Parti et occupaient diverses fonctions – les fils Kim Kyong Il, Kim Pyong Il et Kim Yong Ils travaillaient dans le parti et l’armée quant a la fille Kim Kyung Jin – elle était officielle au sein du parti.

Pourquoi je reviens à ce sujet : le décès de Kim Rak Hui peut laisser croire, que c’est la fin de certains dirigeants en Corée du Nord. Oui mais il faut savoir que des institutions sont sous le contrôle des enfants de ces dirigeants.

Au jour d’aujourd’hui nous avons des informations comme quoi les enfants des dirigeants suivants sont à la tête de certaines organisations : le fils de Kang Sok Ju, la fille de Choe Yong Rim, les frères et sœurs de Kim Jong Eun, la famille de Jang Song Thaek, les enfants de O Jin U, les enfants de O Kuk Ryol, etc. Ce sont eux qui vont gérer la future Corée du Nord. Tous ces enfants ne luttent pas entre eux, ils coopèrent relativement bien entre eux, néanmoins il existe certaines factions au sein de l’establishment nord-coréen.

Ces élites vont-elles changer le futur de la Corée du Nord ? Vont-elles mener à une Corée du Nord plus juste ? Personnellement je pense que les élites nord-coréennes souhaitent faire évoluer les choses en Corée du Nord mais uniquement sur le plan économique. Le système politique, en soi-même, n’évoluera que peu. Pourquoi ? Celui-ci soude réellement le système et empêche toutes déviations et toute chute des Kims.

Longue vie aux Kims !

Existe- il des fractions au sein du leadership Corée du Nord?

Dans le passé, les médias occidentaux et japonais ont toujours cru qu’il existait et qu’il existe des fractions en Corée du Nord au sein de l’establishment nord-coréen. Comme argument, ces mêmes analystes évoquaient les éventuelles disputes entre les élites nord-coréennes (le faux coup d’état de 1985, le silence de la Corée du Nord entre 1994 et 1997,…). Qu’en est-il en réalité ?

Historiquement parlant, Kim Il Sung était sensible à la question des fractions en Corée du Nord. Dès la fin de la Guerre de Corée (si on peut parler de fin…), il s’en prend aux fractions internes, aux fractions chinoises (Ah ! Ces fameux amis chinois…) et russes. Arrive aussi l’année 1956 et le congrès du Parti Communiste Soviétique, où sont critiqués les manœuvres du père de Kim Il Sung, pardon de Joseph Staline. S’en suit aussi la succession raté de Mao et la bande des quatre -四人帮 –  (qui elle aussi ne finira pas idéalement…)

Tout cela, Kim Il Sung  le prends en compte en nominant, et en faisant confiance, qu’à ses proches, qu’à ceux avec qui il a lutté lors de la Guerre de Corée. Tous les autres sont soit exécutés, soit envoyés loin de la capitale pour au moins quelques années. Personne ne peut se sentir sain et sauf à Pyongyang, personne excepté la famille de Kim Il Sung qui est protégé par un décret du Parti du Travail Coréen.

Le seul qui ait face à Kim Jong Il fut Jang Song Thaek, celui-ci était un adversaire important de Kim Jong Il, car non seulement il était brillant mais en plus la fille de Kim Il Sung (Kim Kyung Hee) en était éperdument amoureuse. Un véritable casse tête pour Kim Jong Il. Celui-ci du attendre le décès de Kim Il Sung pour pouvoir exilé Jang Song Thaek (ce qui eu lieu en 2004). Celui-ci revint sur les devant de la scène politique nord-coréenne en 2007.

Jang Song Thaek (un homme politique, un homme d’affaires et un militaire, source de l’illustration: The Telegraph)

Peut-on parler d’autres fractions en Corée du Nord ? Je ne crois pas : il n’y a pas de leaders nord-coréens qui aient réussi à installer leurs proches dans toutes les structures cruciales concernant le fonctionnement de la Corée du Nord. Le seul qui ait réellement réussi soit Jang Song Thaek. Néanmoins cela ne signifie pas que l’on n’a pas des familles qui soient présentes dans plusieurs structures économiques, militaires et politiques de la Corée du Nord mais sans occuper de postes réellement clés (je pense ici tout particulièrement aux familles de Kim Yong Nam, de O Kuk Ryol et de Kang Sok Ju).