Some 500,000 core members of the Pyongyang elite are thought to be the North Korean regime's last bastion of power. A South Korean government official last week said, "We believe that about 500,000 people in Pyongyang are high-ranking members of the Workers Party, military and the government. Their destiny is really bound up with the Kim Dynasty because they live in special quarters and benefit from special rations."
According to a source, senior members of the Workers Party headquarters in Pyongyang live in some 30 high-rise apartment buildings there. Chief military personnel live near the Ministry of People's Armed Forces, and Cabinet members near the Kyoro Hotel. Kim Jong-il's closest aides live in an exclusive quarter of luxury homes called Eundeokchon, meaning Village of Blessing, built by Kim.
A high-profile North Korean defector said, "Pyongyang is a city of privileged people, and there is saying that only those who give orders live there, not those who actually work. Those 500,000 people will support the Kim family until the end." That is why some experts believe Kim Jong-un may well succeed in taking power.
A South Korean intelligence official said, "The elite have enjoyed lavish privileges for their loyalty to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. They show incredible solidarity." They tend to marry within the same class, amass great wealth from trade, eat imported food and use foreign currency. As long as their loyalty to the Kim Dynasty remains unwavering, they can get away with murder." "For them, North Korea must be a paradise," one defector said.
Since Kim Jong-il appointed his son Jong-un as his successor in January 2009, he focused even more on pampering the elite. He carried out a series of plans that would benefit only them to prevent his own regime from crumbling. In February, he opened a department store that exclusively sells imported goods, and in August a large water park with a capacity of 4,000 people.
The fact that he entrusted his brother-in-law Jang Song-taek, who is also Jong-un's patron, to build 100,000 housing units in Pyongyang shows how much Kim cared about the capital. Out of 50,000 tons of food aid from Russia in August, 40,000 tons are said to have been distributed to Pyongyang residents.
A South Korean government official said, "Although North Korea is begging for food around the world, it's liberally spending money on Pyongyang to consolidate the elite." The Kim Dynasty seems to have learned a lesson from the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where small scale riots from provinces snowballed on a massive scale in the capital.
A former intelligence official said, "The Kim family probably think they can maintain the regime as long as they can keep Pyongyang under control." But not all Pyongyang people are enjoying such benefits, and those people are thought to feel relieved about Kim Jong-il's death although they pretend to cry. A defector said, "Who would dare to refuse to cry when there are cameras watching?"