N.Korea Purges Military Officers with Ties to Defectors

  • By Kim Myong-song

    November 01, 2016 11:56

    North Korea is apparently purging military officers with family members who have defected to South Korea.

    Officers and soldiers who have family or relatives that have defected have been driven out since early October in a purge led by the Politburo and state security, a source said Monday. Around 1,000 officers and enlisted soldiers have been dishonorably discharged over the last month.

    "There seems to be a lot of resentment among soldiers who claim to have been driven out even though they are innocent," the source added.

    Military service is crucial in rising up through the ranks of the Workers Party.

    When the number of recruits dwindled after a massive famine in the late 1990s that killed more than 1 million North Koreans, the North eased drafting standards allowing even family members of defectors to join. But screening has become more stringent following recent high-level defections.

    One defector who used to be a senior official said, "Defectors send not only money back to North Korea but information as well. Top officials probably became nervous when they found out that information from the outside world was being passed on to soldiers through family members who defected."

    North Koreans gather for a mass rally to mark the grand opening of a new hospital in Pyongyang on Sunday in this photo from Rodong Sinmun daily.

    The number of North Korean defectors in South Korea is soon expected to surpass 30,000. The pace of defection slowed over the past few years due to tougher crackdowns but is expected to rise around 15 percent this year as Kim Jong-un's reign of terror intensifies.

    The military is Kim's last bastion of support.

    One military source said, "Kim Jong-un probably shares Mao Zedong's mantra that power comes from the barrel of a gun. He has to weed out soldiers with ties to defectors to maintain ideological purity among troops."

    And Choe Kyong-hui, a defector who now works at Hanyang University, said, "North Koreans in their 20s, who are the backbone of military, were born during the famine and are familiar with money and markets. They tend to look up to families who receive money from defectors living overseas, which could persuade them to defect."

    One North Korean soldier who defected across the heavily armed border in September of this year said he came down to the South due to rumors that he would be given U.S. dollars.

    "There is no mention in our propaganda broadcasts of U.S. dollar payments to defectors," a military officer here said. "But there may be rumors that we compensate defectors who provide intelligence."

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