North Korea Leadership Watch

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Bosworth-Kang Chinese Showdown

The Korea Herald reports today that Beijing has been proposed as the setting for a bi-lateral US-DPRK meeting which the US hopes facilitates the DPRK returning to the Six-Party Talks.  According to the report,  Special Envoy to the DPRK (and Tufts Fletcher School Dean) Ambassador Stephen Bosworth has selected DPRK Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Kang Sok-ju as his interlocutor.  If this proves true, the selection of Vice Minister Kang is a shrewd decision of Ambassador Bosworth’s.  Vice Minister Kang is Kim Jong-il’s cousin and is said to be highly trusted by General-Secretary Kim.  With Bosworth possibly taking the lead, it is a sign that the grown-ups (which is to say, seasoned and shrewd nonpolitical professionals) have regained the upper hand at State in terms of US policy on the DPRK.  In an adjacent matter, MOFA Director Ri Gun has been granted a temporary visa to visit the United States to attend a seminar in California.

Returning to Vice Minister Kang, he joined General Secretary Kim at a performance of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Academy ensemble over the weekend.  Among other named attendees in the KCNA account were Minister of Public Security (one kind of Interior Ministry) Gen. Ju Sang-song, and National Defense Commission executives Gens. Ri Myong-su and Hyon Chol-hae.

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  1. adamcathcart
    October 19, 2009

    So many people disparage the North Korean penchant for opera. However, when the dramatic plots on stage have resonance among the august personages in the gallery, things get interesting. (I’m thinking here of the NY Phil. playing Lohengrin prelude last Feb. when the whole pretext behind the opera is the identity of the successor.) More to your post, the opera appearances also give the Dear Leader a chance to display to his people (and to us) who is in favor these days. Enjoyed this post, but wonder if anyone is in possession of even speculation as to what personal role Hillary Clinton is playing in the formulation/implementation of US policy toward DPRK. We do know she has praised the Chinese for advising her on how to handle the Kim regime!

    • nkleadershipwatch
      October 19, 2009

      Kim Jong-il is a bit of an opera buff, as well as liking Korean ballads, American blues, some rock ‘n’ roll and 70’s disco.

      People who attend guidance visits or performances with General-Secretary Kim are not necessarily in favor or actually holding any power. It is a good rough sketch, but they are not an ideal indicator. The number of people who join Kim Jong-il (particularly those from the NDC or his Personal Secretariat) outnumber those named in KCNA reports. Some times it is a matter of here today, gone tomorrow–there have been KWP cadres and State officials who were invited to join General-Secretary Kim’s for the sole purpose of being dismissed. Still and all, people such as Kim Ki-nam and Jang Song-thaek are long-time advisers and confidantes to Kim Jong-il, and KPA Gens. Ri Myong-su and Hyon Chol-hae are constant traveling companions. This latter duo’s presence is a message to the KPA’s top brass and general-grade officers that they are General-Secretary Kim’s KPA eyes and ears.

      • adamcathcart
        October 19, 2009

        Thanks for the insights — I am curious about the provincial party secretaries, particularly in the provinces bordering China. There was a very good and extremely thorough study done last April on the Chinese provincial administrations in that area, but I have yet to see anything of comparable scope for DPRK. Even the gargantuan North Korean Handbook, if I’m not mistaken, is fairly sparse on this question. I assume it’s safe to assume that provincial party secretaries usually hail from different provinces than the ones they govern, and that North Hamgyong is the most beastly, yet most easily corrupted, of all. I will root around a bit more on your resources page to see what I can find, and appreciate your guidance on the music performance question.

        • nkleadershipwatch
          October 21, 2009

          There is not much to be found on many in open sources on the Provincial KWP Secretaries, most especially those DPRK provinces the border China. Unless a KWP Secretary previously worked in a state-owned enterprise or was demoted from a more senior Party position following a suspension such as Choe Ryong-hae, there may be little to find.

  2. adamcathcart
    October 19, 2009

    Awfully discourteous of me to leave a reference with no title or URL; although you may have read it already, here is the SAIS paper from April I mentioned. It’s 80 pages and opens as pdf.

    http://uskoreainstitute.org/pdf/specialreports/USKI_FAB_040109.pdf

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This article was written on 19 Oct 2009, and is filled under DPRK-US Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Six Party Talks.

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