Kim Jong-un may have executed one of his closest aides according to a Seoul-based think tank.
According to North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS,) earlier this month Kim Kyong-ok, the First Deputy Director (First Vice Director) of the Organization and Guidance Department [OGD] of North Korea’s ruling party was executed along with some of his aides. The OGD is widely believed to be among the most powerful institutions within the DPRK state, and some defectors and North Korean experts argue that the OGD actually controls Kim Jong-un himself.
NKIS said that Choe Ryong Hae, another close aide who until recently was believed to be North Korea’s number two under only Kim Jong-un himself, had led the execution process. Choe was one of the senior North Korean officials who visited South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games.
“Kim Kyong-ok was arrested at his apartment in Pyongyang, and as far as we know, Kim Jong-un seems to be behind Choe, even though Choe led the arrest and execution,” said Kim Heung-gwang, the head of NKIS.
Kim Kyong-ok is considered one of Kim Jong-un’s closest aides, and was seen as particularly influential in grooming the young leader to take power. Ko Young-hui, Kim Jong-un’s mother, is believed to have personally requested that Kim Kyong-ok train Kim Jong-un for his eventual position as leader of the DPRK.
According to NK Leadership Watch:
“Kim Kyong Ok is currently one of the KWP Organization Guidance Department’s four senior deputy (or 1st Vice, according to DPRK state media practices) directors. In this position he has significant influence over personnel appointments and ensures policy implementation and compliance, particularly in the KPA and internal security services. He has been a leading figure in the resuscitation of the CMC [Central Military Commission] reinforcing party control over military affairs.”
NKIS said Kim Jong-un allegedly purged Kim Kyong-ok over concerns that the latter Kim was rapidly expanding his influence in North Korea. Kim Jong-un had his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, executed last December for similar reasons. Kim Kyong-ok was said to have played a significant role in facilitating Jang’s downfall.
However, according to NKIS, it is Choe whom Kim Jong-un has entrusted to eliminate all possible threats to his power. The think tank said that the North Korean leader chose Choe for this responsibility because he does not have an extensive personal support base within the regime, and therefore is not himself a threat to Kim Jong-un’s power.
NKIS did raise the possibility that Kim Kyong-ok may have been executed because Kim Jong-un wants to get rid of everyone who was intimately involved in the execution of his uncle last year.
This is the second rumor this month about North Korea executing senior officials.
Japan-based Asia Press, quoting an unnamed source, reported earlier this month that 12 officials from North Korea’s ruling party were executed in early October for not abiding by Kim Jong-un and party orders.
NKIS said the Asia Press report is consistent with the information it got form its source, so the execution of Kim Kyong-ok and his aides has likely happened. However, the think tank noted that it would continue closely monitoring the situation.