N.Korean Elite 'Getting Restive'

Senior officials in North Korea's Workers Party and military are increasingly objecting to policies or ignoring orders from leader Kim Jong-un, leading to rumors that his grip on the country is weakening, sources said Tuesday.

A source said Kim Jong-un recently presided over a meeting on bolstering North Korea's power supply and called for more hydro-electric power plants, but senior officials claimed that the North's chronic power shortage can be resolved only by building nuclear plants.

"Kim was furious and fired them on the spot, stripping them of their ranks," the source added.

As North Korea forfeited international support to build a light-water reactor after its nuclear test, Kim has been focusing on constructing large-scale hydro-electric projects like the Heecheon and Chongchon river dams.

But officials insist that will not be enough to solve the chronic electricity shortage.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un inspects a rural orchard in these photos released by Rodong Sinmun on Thursday. /Newsis North Korea leader Kim Jong-un inspects a rural orchard in these photos released by Rodong Sinmun on Thursday. /Newsis

On another recent occasion Kim watched a football match at a military base, and after he left the players beat up the referee to vent their anger at his decision while lower-ranking soldiers in the football squad assaulted senior officers, suggesting that discipline is fraying everywhere.

A growing number of soldiers are disgruntled over being roped into labor in construction projects like a ski resort in Masikryong which is one of Kim's pet projects.

Another source said, "One high-ranking military officer was caught complaining about several new construction projects Kim Jong-un proposed in his New Year's address and was punished."

North Koreans are apparently disaffected because Kim was spotted flashing broad grins in public after a high-rise apartment collapsed in Pyongyang in May, killing around 400 members of the elite.

One foreign businessman who visited Pyongyang early this month said, "When Kim Jong-il was in power, North Koreans of all ranks parroted the same opinions, but this time it was different. There were quite a lot of North Koreans who complained about Kim Jong-un and senior party and military officials."

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 26, 2014 08:16 KST

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