Stalinist Purge in N.Korea Is an Alarming Prospect

North Korean state TV on Monday showed the country's eminence grise Jang Song-taek being hauled from Politburo meeting by uniformed guards. At the meeting, presided over by Jang's nephew and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the man widely believed to have been the real power in the North was stripped of all of his titles and kicked out of the party.

The footage demonstrates how the Kim dynasty has used fear as a tool to tame the North Korean public. The tactics are reminiscent of the terror of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Jang was pronounced guilty of 20 offenses ranging from corruption, womanizing, gambling and drug-taking to "defiance of the supreme commander of the [North] Korean People's Army." He was also found guilty of attempting to form a "faction within the party" and "pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scenes." 

Looking at the range of offenses, it appears highly unlikely that Jang can stage yet another comeback and he may well face an even worse fate than being executed in public.

The regime's former leader, Kim Jong-il also eliminated an uncle who posed an obstacle to his rise to power, suggesting that the elder Kim taught his son how to use fear as a political tool. The North encourages fanatical reverence for the so-called "Baekdu bloodline" referring to the direct descendants of nation founder Kim Il-sung, and their reign of terror is suffocating the North Korean people.

What kind of future can North Koreans have under such a tyrannical regime? And what must pro-North Korean activists in the South be thinking after watching images of Jang being hauled off by uniformed guards?

Until now, Jang had been viewed as a moderate reformer supportive of China's market-opening measures. If he was ousted for taking that line, North Korea may retreat even further into stone-age isolation. South Korea needs to monitor this development very closely. It is extremely important to determine whether Kim Jong-un purged his uncle because he became too powerful or because he was too forward-looking.

Jang's unexpected demise is a stark reminder how unpredictable North Korea can be. When Kim Jong-un and Jang took center stage after Kim Jong-il's sudden death two years ago, nobody imagined that such a fate awaited the young leader's guardian so soon.

North Korea has nuclear and chemical weapons that could turn the Korean Peninsula into an inferno or mass grave at any moment. At this point every small piece of intelligence about North Korea and each policy vis-a-vis Pyongyang could determine the fate of the entire Korean people.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 10, 2013 12:26 KST