North Korea, the world’s last remaining comically maniacal 50s-era dictatorship, is swirling with rumors that Dear Leader Number Three, Kim Jong-Un, has been deposed.
Jong-Un hasn’t been seen in public since September 3rd, feeding the speculation. The official-ish story is that he broke both ankles, the result of walking too much in Cuban-style heels. No, really! While those shoes are some uncomfortable looking shits, it sounds very implausible.
Now, a report by The Daily Beast states Pyongyang’s second-highest ranking official, Hwang Pyong So, traveled to South Korea for an unprecedented discussion about reconciliation, a move he would only likely make if Jong-Un was no longer issuing orders to his subordinates.
Reports out of the country make that appear to be the case.
Sources within North Korea have reported that the nation imposed a ban on new travel passes for entering or leaving the capital, Pyongyang, on Sept. 27 … “[Suggesting] there has been either been an attempted coup or that the authorities there have uncovered some sort of plot against the leadership.” Toshimitsu Shigemura, an authority on North Korea and professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, told The Telegraph, “If it is a military-backed coup, then the situation in Pyongyang will be very dangerous and I have heard reports that Kim has been moved out of the capital.”
Rebellion! Regardless of whether he’s been completely booted out of power, it appears in recent months Jong Un’s notoriusly iron grasp on North Korea has been weakening.
The young ruler did not preside over last’s month meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the first time that has happened since he took power after his father’s death in December 2011. Yes, he may have been ill, but if he was politically healthy, the meeting would have been postponed until he was able to appear.
The country’s own media is implying Jong-Un’s power has been waning, while his ‘administration’ is in as much upheaval as ever.
Also extremely unusual: The reports on the meeting from the state-run Korean Central News Agency mention Kim—first secretary of the Workers’ Party, first chairman of the National Defense Commission, and supreme commander of the People’s Army, all the top positions in the state and party—only at the end and only in passing. In a regime like North Korea’s, these state media reports spell political infirmity.
In the space of 15 months he switched out his army chief three times, and it appears he replaced about half of the top 218 military and administrative officials. Pyongyang, according to the Financial Times, has not seen such turmoil since the late 1950s, when his grandfather Kim Il Sung eliminated opposition after his failure in the Korean War… The continual purges during Kim’s short tenure cannot be a good sign.
Meanwhile, Hwang Pyong So has been slowly conslidating power within the reclusive nation.
At the latest Supreme People’s Assembly meeting, he was made vice chairman of the National Defense Commission. This was after his promotion to director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, making him the top political officer in the military.
So, could Pyong So have seized office in the absence of Jong Un leader? It’s definitely a Bro move, that’s for certain, but with North Korea, anything is possible. Stay tuned.