North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Pak Man's Fate

"I see better days and I do better things": Pak Nam-gi (center) with VMAR Kim Yong-chun (who has not appeared in North Korean media for some time) and Jang Song-thaek (Photo: KCNA).

Pak Nam-gi has not appeared in the North Korean media since a rally on 9 January.   But there remains no definitive confirmation that he was dismissed from his position.  A report about Mr. Pak’s vagrancy in JoongAng Daily tempers recent speculation with a bit of reality:

“We understand Pak has not been visible for some time now,” a government source said. “But whether he has been fired is an entirely different matter. Unless someone else takes his post, we can’t say for sure.”

Local reports speculate that Pak was held accountable after the redenomination of the North Korean won in November caused inflation and even riots.

A few other thoughts about Pak Nam-gi’s invisbility:

–He is 81 years old and with a five decade career in Party and State, he may simply be retired; Mr. Pak’s cohorts are still on the road with Kim Jong-il and otherwise appearing in the North Korean media.

—  While the leadership’s position is not presently subject to challenge, cleavages remain among North Korean elites and Kim Jong-il will not exacerbate these divisions while a possible succession campaign unfolds.

–The obvious failures of the currency redenomination provide Kim Jong-il and his deputies the excuse to begin the possible transfer of the KWP Financial Planning Department’s responsibilities into the National Defense Commission.

An affiliate of 38 North