North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Watching the Defectors

Citing ROK and US intelligence sources, Chosun Ilbo reports that in May 2008 Kim Jong-il toughened penalties for North Korean citizens caught attempting to migrate to China.   CI reports that DPRK security officials were told to incarcerate outgoing North Koreans, or shoot them on site.  The first step of General-Secretary Kim’s orders was the installation of barbed wire fences and surveillance cameras in 2007, along with ten-year prison/labor camp sentences and executions. The second step was posting State Security Department personnel to border areas, along with KWP officials.

In March of 2008, it is also reported, General-Secretary Kim dispatched Jang Song-thaek to lead Party audits (inspections) of municipal People’s Committee and Party officials in Sinuiju, North Pyongan:

In March 2008, Jang Song-taek, Kim’s brother-in-law and close aide who is the administration director of the Workers’ Party, personally oversaw checks of party, government and military organizations in Sinuiju, a gateway city in the border area. Several corrupt city officials were apparently executed at his orders.

An intelligence source said Kim attempted to overcome economic difficulties in the early 2000s by introducing a modicum of market capitalism, but he seems to have tightened controls as there were signs of the dictatorship being eroded by nascent capitalism.

The North Korean leadership believes that South Korean goods or news about the South distributed by smugglers from China are a direct threat to the regime, experts say. A defector from Chongjin said commandos crack down on any signs of a black market and conduct midnight raids on producers of illegal South Korean DVDs.

This does not account for other reports of the executions of Chinese and North Korean traders in South Korean media products, or Jang Song-thaek’s follow-up inspection of North Pyongan during the summer of 2008.    In January 2008, Chon Yong-song was appointed Chairman of the Sinuiju Municipal People’s Committee, among other personnel appointments in 2008 to Sinuiju’s local leadership.

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