Is Kim Jong-un Purging the Party?

The North Korean regime has been investigating senior officials for corruption since early November in what appears to be a purge led by Kim Jong-il's son and heir Jong-un, a defector organization said Tuesday.

A Unification Ministry official speculated, "Like his father, Kim Jong-un will probably try to consolidate his hold on power through bloody purges in his early days in office."

Quoting an internal North Korean source, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said the Workers Party's North Hamgyong provincial committee inspected Musan-gun for a week since Nov. 5 and caught more than 15 senior party and security officials who turned a blind eye to defections or took bribes. Many of the arrested officials were apparently in charge of supervising border garrisons and security agencies.

"Led by Kim Jong-un, a search for corrupt senior officials is underway across the country," it said. "Senior officials are trembling with fear because they don't know where heads are going to roll."

Since he took power Kim Jong-il has tightened his grip with purges whenever he faced critical moments. In October 1992, the year after he became supreme commander of the Army, he purged about 20 military officers who had studied in the Soviet Union for criticizing the regime. In April 1995, the year after regime founder Kim Il-sung's death, he detected suspicious movements in Sixth Army Corps in North Hamgyong Province and executed hundreds of soldiers there.

Kim had So Kwan-hui, then party secretary in charge of agricultural affairs, publicly executed in Pyongyang during the famine in 1997 that killed more than 1 million people, branding him a "spy of the U.S. imperialists." In the same context, the Kim dynasty had Pak Nam-gi, the then director of the party Planning and Finance Department, shot in March, calling him to account for the botched currency reform.

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 17, 2010 08:56 KST