Execution by Dogs or Machine Guns: “What Difference Does it make?”

You might be asking yourself, “what difference does it make what the method of execution was for Uncle Jang Song Taek in North Korea?”

There is a distinction in the brutal savagery if, in fact, the dog-style execution was the case.  The difference in the way that Jang died says something about Kim Jong Un and his power faction.  It is one thing to be quickly snuffed by bullets while blindfolded at the stake, quite another to be torn apart rather more inhumanely, and probably more slowly, by vicious dogs. One says, “get rid of this threat to power, quickly and without remorse”. The latter says “eliminate this threat to power, with vengeance, delight in the human suffering, and provide a barbaric spectacle and lesson for others to witness and be intimidated by”.

Military_dog_barking

If, in fact, the Uncle Jang’s execution was by dogs, that type of savagery is likely to be a “bridge too far” for this regime to stand. It blows the whole lie of a “Worker’s Paradise” completely out of the water and shoves factions within the country much closer to a “Peoples’ Power” tipping point.

So there is a huge difference that the method of execution makes. If it is the dog version, we had better be ready for a regime collapse and a humanitarian crisis the likes of which the world has not seen in recent times.

Read More

North Korea’s Crumbling Facade & Imploding China Relations

Jang Song Taek formerly, Kim Jong Un's Uncle

Jang Song Taek
formerly, Kim Jong Un’s Uncle

 The execution of the No. 2 leader in North Korea, Kim Jong Un’s Uncle Jang Song Taek, was beyond brutal–savage by any account. At the time that this broadcast was made, it was believed that Jang’s execution was by machine gunning him down while tied to a stake (this was the fate of Kim Jong Un’s former girlfriend). Some hours after the show was taped, we learned of an even more savage execution from the Singapore Straits Times (http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/asia-report/china/story/jangs-execution-bodes-ill-china-20131224 )

“According to the report, unlike previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang was stripped naked and thrown into a cage, along with his five closest aides. Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up. This is called “quan jue”, or execution by dogs.

Military_dog_barking

The report said the entire process lasted for an hour, with Mr Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader in North Korea, supervising it along with 300 senior officials.

The horrifying report vividly depicted the brutality of the young North Korean leader. The fact that it appeared in a Beijing- controlled newspaper showed that China no longer cares about its relations with the Kim regime.”

It is hard to imagine such savagery which puts it on a scale rivaled perhaps only by Pol Pot’s genocide, the Holocaust, and others of similar ilk. Whether or not the report is true, we shall have to wait and see but whether Jang was e executed by machine gun or by dogs, the result is the same–the former is less sensational.*

Jang’s execution means what for North Korea? Was there, in reality, a coup d’état or an attemped one?  Was the Jang execution a good or bad? Was it necessary?  

Patrick Border Citizen Diplomat Veteran North Korea Visitor

Patrick Border
Citizen Diplomat
Veteran North Korea Visitor

The North Korea policy wonks and observers are all over the map as to why this has happened and what it means for the future of the Hermit Kingdom. We turned to the fascinating perspective of an American who has recently returned from yet another trip to North Korea to understand what is actually going on on the ground. Patrick Border is an American citizen diplomat and veteran Hawaii North Korea traveler. We had an unusual conversation with Mr. Border as to the real “why” behind recent events in North Korea (Kenneth Bae, Merrill Newman and Dennis Rodman’s NBA exhibition game tryouts) and, in particular, Uncle Jang’s execution and its future implications.  

 

During this interview, Mr. Border discusses the armed conflict within North Korea between the respective factions of economic reformer Jang and the North Korean military, with officers of military being killed. He talks about the instability of the Regime, the “overreaching” that Jang’s execution signals as well as the potential for steps towards a “People’s Power” tipping point in North Korea. Mr. Border emphasizes that Jang was North Korea’s point man for its relations with China and that relationship is now bitterly shattered and he reveals just what he has seen in Pyongyang that proves this. He left us with the ominous perspective that North Korean Regime is now isolated–even more than ever with its old mentor and protector, China, shut out–and that the shabby facade that the Regime holds up to the global community is crumbling, its dirty linen has been aired like never before, and there are now clear factions in North Korea with people forced to choose sides.

____________

* On this particular point, you might be interested in a related piece on this website called, “Execution by dogs or machine guns: ‘What difference does it make?’” here. 


 

 

Read More

The Cheonan Sinking: Wounded Tiger vs. Crippled Child “

 

North Korea: “The Cheonan Sinking: Wounded Tiger vs. Crippled Child “

 

May 22, 2010.

On the receiving end of any spanking from Seoul and the U.S., North Korea actually has a split personality disorder. On the military side, it is like a wounded tiger. On the economic side, with an economy stumbling at roughly the Zimbawe level, North Korea is akin to a crippled, little child. Depending upon where you decide to spank, the policy types in Washington and Seoul get to choose between slapping the wounded tiger or kicking the already crippled, young child. They must understand clearly, if they choose to hit–the “where” and “how” have very different consequences and, like many North Korea issues, the correct strategy is not always obvious.  

Read More

North Korea: “The Cheonan Was Bait for an Internal Propaganda Frenzy “

The Cheonan sinking is an important internal propaganda victory that Pyongyang  created. With the loss of 46 South Korean sailors, Washington and Seoul had no choice. They took the bait.  In so doing, they have predictably teed up the opportunity now for Kim Jong Il to do a little defense of the homeland frenzy. This internal, “Defense of the DPRK” propaganda barrage that now follows the Washington Seoul “spanking” is  extremely valuable to the regime to enhance its stability at this delicate and difficult time of transition. The Dear Leader and his elite, inner circle know full well that, given Kim Jong Il’s 2008 stoke, his clock is already in overtime.

While we may never know for sure, the sinking of the Cheonan appears to be part of a deliberate teasing to coax a limited military response out of Seoul and Washington. Given the sophisticated, Kasparov-like chessmaster moves made by Pyongyang (typically outgunning U.S. negotiators concentrating on their checkers board), the Cheonan incident is just one of several moves coming up. Brinksmanship?  Hardly.  Pyongyang knows full well that at worst it faces a limited spanking response like perhaps joint military exercises (for show) or perhaps beefed up security between U.S and ROK forces on the peninsula combined with some rhetoric. Nothing more. Should Seoul engage in even the most benign cross-border military skirmish, Kim Jong Il can  then get away with his slash back and propagandize that as blocking the aggressor from the South, no matter how minimal the “deterrent” response is from Washington and Seoul.

There is another piece to this already complicated puzzle. Kim Jong Il needs a leadership-anointing opportunity to assist his youngest son, the Swiss-educated  Jong-Eun, to obtain some kind of military leadership, albeit limited, in defense of the fatherland. He also needs to cinch down the military power base for Jong-Eun. So how would this work? Whip the country and the KPA into a war frenzy, organize rallies in Pyongyang, put the KPA on alert, cut off trade and communications with the South. Perhaps even give “Brilliant Comrade ” (Jong-Eun) a military leadership role in the slash back exercise which can then be internally propagandized and then jerk him back to safety once the slash back has been undertaken. Military anointment completed and the internal film and propaganda machinery can then be unleashed. But before “Brilliant Comrade” is placed in the limited line of fire, the Dear Leader needed to test the waters and set up the U.S. an South Korean response. Hence, the Cheonan incident. The timing of this Cheonan chess move is not coincidental—the DPRK Party Congress is set to meet in a few weeks and it is likely that Kim Jong il will confirm then that the baton will pass to Jong-Eun.

Read More

A Different Focus on North Korea – Business Reunification Out Over the Horizon

 

A Different Focus on North Korea – Business Reunification Out Over the Horizon

May 31, 2009 by davidfday

Negotiating table for the 6 Party talks.

Negotiating table for the 6 Party talks.

 

This is what the real Six Party Talks looked like.

The recent nuclear and missile tests combined with threats bandied about by Pyongyang present an ominous, threatening view of attention-grabbing brinksmanship. It is worrisome, to be sure. Negotiations to handle North Korea, or get them back to the table at least, will be a new and different challenge for Special Envoy, Stephen Bosworth, who is no stranger to difficult negotiations—after all, as the America Ambassador in Manila in 1986, he was one of the principal players in successfully negotiating the Marcoses out of Malacanang Palace and eventually out of the country. Remember, the Philippine situation in the mid-1980’s was still a very touchy matter. There were a million people exposed in the streets sandwiched between the armed forces of Juan Ponce Enrile and General Ver. North Korea will be an entirely different ballgame for many reasons.

To be sure, there will be plenty of commentary about North Korea, its threats, and the destabilizing prospect it exhibits for Northeast Asia.

One thing is for sure. Beyond the nuclear tests, bellicose threats and serious potential for a regime implosion with its humanitarian crisis to follow, there are prospects for a stabilized and developing future for the country out over the horizon. We never hear much about this possibility. It is just that very few people focus on the opportunities that are coming as the country eventually stabilizes and begins to open up.

DHL is.

DHL Vans in service in Pyongyang

DHL Vans in Pyongyang

Given the current deteriorating health of the Dear Leader, we are now entering the transition period for the regime.

Read More

The Real Nightmare of a North Korea Collapse & Implosion

The Real Nightmare of a North Korea Collapse & Implosion

June 1,  2010 by davidfday  

Some commentators suggest that this Cheonan incident may have created be the perfect storm to elbow the regime over the cliff. The consequences of such a “Diem” strategy towards the DPRK would be disastrous. Even without being elbowed, the regime is still going to implode. It is not a question of whether.  It is simply a question of when—and and serious economic sanctions run the terrible risk of shoving the DPRK right over the edge.

A DPRK implosion will cause a massive disaster crisis on a scale the likes of which the world has never seen before. On the human side, the disaster will involve hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking to breach the Chinese and Russian borders in the Northern part of the country and even greater numbers attempting to cross the heavily- mined DMZ to get to Seoul. There are multi-million numbers involved in human relief efforts that will have to be sustained for a lengthy period of time since there is no economy. Then there are the WMD weapons, expertise, nuclear materials, and rogue military issues also in the equation which will have to somehow be handled with lightening speed before being spirited away into undesirable hands. The current regime is already unstable and approaching a delicate leadership time—a collapse risks an implosion of epic proportions, making Haiti look like a garden party. Russia and China understand this and will not buy into any serious, biting economic sanctions that shove North Korea closer to the brink.

There are two critical points here. The first is that there can never be stability on the Korean peninsula until the DPRK can create a modicum of economic progress. Every day that the country can move a bit towards its 2012 economic goal of “A Mighty and Prosperous Nation” is a win and pushes the implosion nightmare back a notch or two. This will require heavier involvement of the private sector, not less. As a policy goal, Seoul and Washington must find ways to get more of the private sector underway in North Korea. The heroine for peninsula stability last year was Hyun Jung-Eun, chairwoman of South Korea’s Hyundai Group who successfully negotiated the reopening of North-South trade after the Dear Leader shut it down. Hyun Jung-Eun personifies the type of private sector leadership that can brunt or possibly block the implosion nightmare– if given enough time.

The second point is that the current disaster relief efforts in Haiti and the Gulf of Mexico do not even rise to the level of dress rehearsals for a collapse of North Korea. Seoul will have to bear the brunt of the implosion nightmare. Unless the Blue House is sufficiently satisfied watching Washington’s current response to the crises in Haiti and with the BP oil spill, and is convinced that Washington is fully capable of handling a multiple-fold Haiti with lightning speed and minimal hiccups, it would be well-advised to get a massive, DPRK disaster master plan in place yesterday. This means strategic disaster planning, the staging of huge amounts of supplies, disaster management training and development, and repeated, coordinating rehearsals. The response time will need to be in hours, not days or weeks and a blistering fast disaster response cannot be cobbled together on this massive scale when it occurs. It will be way too late.

Read More

The Negotiations Master—Kim Jong Il still has it

The Negotiations Master—Kim Jong Il still has it

By David Day

Over the past year, we have watched the Dear Leader’s private train slide into China on several occasions with educated speculation that he was paving the way for a baton hand-off in Pyongyang to Kim Jong Eun. There was a need, it was argued, for Beijing to bless the heir apparent. Some of these China visits included factory tours, fueling the speculation that the Kim Regime was preparing to “open up” and was ready now for some type of economic liberalization. These visits were followed by, more recently, announcements of large China-fueled infrastructure projects just inside the North Korean border.

Kim Jong Il’s current trip to Russia was not just to provide a change of scenery or demonstrate that there are places he can visit other than the PRC. Despite his age and frail health, the Dear Leader still retains his tactical genius. The Russian trip suggests the timing and the key trump card that Kim Jong Il may soon play—the Trans- Siberia/Korean pipeline.

Russia and South Korea have already entered into a MOU for a huge US$90 billion deal between Russia’s Gazprom and South Korea’s state-owned KoGas. The latter, the world’s largest single buyer of natural gas, will take 10 billion cubic meters annually for 30 years – via a pipeline to be built across North Korea. The sticking point in this enormous energy deal is, of course, North Korea. This week, North Korea also inked the same accord.

The tactical genius of Kim Jong Il is now beginning to surface.  2012 is a Presidential election year in South Korea and President Lee Myung-bak, an uncomfortable hard-liner for the North, is now on his way out. 2012 is also the magical, propagandized, “Mighty and Prosperous Nation” year (the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, the 70th birthday of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, and the 30th birthday (give or take) of the heir apparent, “Brilliant Comrade,” Kim Jong Eun—the 100, 70, 30 numbers are significant in the North Korean culture).

There is one other piece to this puzzle and that is Japan. Fukushima and Japan’s nuclear domino shutdowns/decommissionings have left certain parts the country desperately short of energy. This Summer, Tokyo Electric has been able to manage as a result of drastic austerity measures. In the reasonably short term future, Japan will find it impossible to fill its resulting power gap with renewables. Natural gas and coal are the only practical alternatives, with the cleaner, natural gas being the preferred choice. Russian natural gas piped to Busan, South Korea is going to open up critical and easier access for Japan.

As for the tactical genius, Kim can balance China’s growing influence on North Korea with both Russian and South Korean financial influence in the form of a mixture of pipeline lease rent and energy which the North Korean grid sorely needs. A deal to move forward with a pipeline has the added bonus of fitting squarely with the needs of the Pyongyang “Mighty and Prosperous Nation” propaganda machine to have something significant to announce for 2012.

A key issue which Russia and South Korea will undoubtedly have to be concerned with is the pipeline “valve” question (see, the North Korean shutdown of the Mt. Geumgang resort as an example).

Perhaps the economics will force the valve to remain open, but they need to be prepared that Pyongyang will be maneuvering to retain control. Yet another flash of Kim Jong Il’s tactical genius is in the works.

Read More

Pieces are being put into place for the Transistion of Power in North Korea

Pieces are being put into place for the Transistion of Power in  North Korea

June 29,  2010 by davidfday

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

North Korea’s Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law , was recently promoted to vice-chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission. This is significant because the heir-apparent in North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is Jang’s nephew and, as a top North Korean military official, Jang provides a critical KPA military brass support network for Jong Un.  To stabilize the transistion of power from Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, Jong Un, it must be remembered that Jong Un has no military leadership experience; he does not have the “smoke of the revolution” about him, and will need the military support network provided by his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, if he is to carry any credible authority with the KPA.

The regime transistion of power is  extremely delicate for North Korea. The last transition in this feudal, Stalinist regime took place over a period of some 14 years. Kim Jong Il had years to nuture relationships and leadership credibility within Pyongyang circles as the mantle shifted from his father, Kim Il Sung.

As  the grandson of the revolution, Kim Jong Un does not have the luxury of  time given his father’s ailing health. The support of the senior KPA will be critical for him to assume and hold power. Uncle Jang’s appointment, then, is an important step in this transition.

See, also Blog article called, North Korea: “The Cheonan Was Bait for an Internal Propaganda Frenzy “ also located on this website.

 

Read More