North Korea: Kim Jong-un's Great Purge

14-01-2014

While the news of the execution of Jang Song-taek, the second-most highly ranked leader in North Korea’s regime, surprised many outside the country, the event is unlikely to presage dramatic changes within the country. Jang Song-taek was sentenced to death on 12 December 2013 after being arrested during a public debate of the North Korean Politburo. His purge follows a major reshuffling of the army, the reorganisation of the ruling party and the execution of Kim Jong-un’s former fiancée and a group of popular artists. Jang Song-taek was known to be very close to Beijing and an advocate of economic reforms inspired by Chinese models. With Jang's execution, Kim Jong-un has reasserted his leadership and sent a clear signal to his country’s closest – perhaps only – ally, China. It does not seem that the purge was intended to suppress internal opponents. The country is quiet, the armed forced have been weakened, and the execution of the only credible alternative to Kim Jong-un makes the perspective of a putsch extremely unlikely in the near future.

While the news of the execution of Jang Song-taek, the second-most highly ranked leader in North Korea’s regime, surprised many outside the country, the event is unlikely to presage dramatic changes within the country. Jang Song-taek was sentenced to death on 12 December 2013 after being arrested during a public debate of the North Korean Politburo. His purge follows a major reshuffling of the army, the reorganisation of the ruling party and the execution of Kim Jong-un’s former fiancée and a group of popular artists. Jang Song-taek was known to be very close to Beijing and an advocate of economic reforms inspired by Chinese models. With Jang's execution, Kim Jong-un has reasserted his leadership and sent a clear signal to his country’s closest – perhaps only – ally, China. It does not seem that the purge was intended to suppress internal opponents. The country is quiet, the armed forced have been weakened, and the execution of the only credible alternative to Kim Jong-un makes the perspective of a putsch extremely unlikely in the near future.