Execution as Punishment for Protest

18 December 2013 | 16:17 Code : 1926225 Interview General category
An interview with Dr. Ismael Bashari, an expert on Korean affairs
Execution as Punishment for Protest

Last week, in an unpredictable measure, the leader of North Korea executed his uncle who was considered the number two in this country. His main accusation was his intention to launch a coup against Kim Jong Un. While many political analysts thought that the coming to power of a young personality could mean political reforms in North Korea, can it be said that, considering this incident and some other mass executions which have happened in this country, Kim Jong Un is moving towards total authoritarianism?

North Korea has been an authoritarian regime since the beginning and it cannot be said that it is moving towards authoritarianism at the present time. It is not clear whether this incident was an attempt towards reform or in the opposite direction. Since decades ago, a dictatorship exists and no special analysis could be made with regard to this new incident. The reason is that the information which is given to the outside world is very limited. For example, regarding the execution of North Korea’s No.2 man, it must be said that perhaps it is for the first time that the media of this country has announced this news and the world has become aware of it, otherwise many important people have been eliminated in this country before but no news was ever given about them. In the past, when the anniversary of the revolutions in these countries was celebrated, there were speculations about the elimination or promotion of certain people based on their positions in the ceremonies and this was a norm in the communist countries. Therefore, such an atmosphere does exist in communist countries and North Korea is one of them.

How is the status of the international sanctions against North Korea? Is there a special economic way for this country to bypass this situation?

Since years ago, the western countries have imposed these sanctions against North Korea but so long as China supports this country, almost all of its needs are provided. Of course, the extent of these aids does not save the people of North Korea from poverty but it will help this country to stand on its feet, thus, these international sanctions will have less of an impact.

The government has blamed Jang Song for many of its economic problems which does not seem logical. Is the government of Kim Jong Un concerned about the consequences of possible protests against the economic situation that now it has increased the political pressure inside the country?

There might be news of protests inside North Korea but truthful news are not reported and the people are completely contained inside the country or are severely dealt with for they cannot tolerate any protest. You have certainly heard the news that they have killed many people inside a sports stadium accusing them of watching foreign TV channels or having contacts with the outside world. Thus, the domestic situation does not allow the people to protest against these authoritarian measures and the people are constantly escaping the country. The government has even covered the sea borders with barbed wires.

The political strangulation in North Korea is to the extent that no one is informed about the situation of the public opinion but could these executions and suppressions lead to a popular uprising in this country? Does North Korea have the necessary potential for such a movement?

Basically I do not believe that such an uprising would ever happen. The reason is that China is also concerned about this matter and will even help North Korea so that the structure of this totalitarian regime would not be disrupted. As you know the Chinese do not tolerate such protests inside their own country and North Korea is the backyard of China and it will not allow such incidents to happen.

The No. 2 man in North Korea who was executed had good relations with China and this is while China is one of North Korea’s limited friends in the region which has helped this country economically during the years of sanctions. Could his execution be considered as a warning to China?

No, this was not a warning to China for these countries are allies and China does not care about a person who has had good relations with this country and now has been executed and this issue will not affect the relations between high officials of China and North Korea. Of course all of these analyses are incomplete and one must wait and see if in the future, North Korea pursues harsher positions in its foreign policy and takes more adventurous measures, for example against South Korea; then it can be speculated whether the position of the government has become more radicalized or whether they have eliminated the radicals and are moving towards softer positions.

It seems that international reactions with regard to North Korea’s nuclear activities have stopped and there is no news of a revival of the six-party talks. Why is there a deadlock in North Korea’s nuclear negotiations? Does the US pursue a special objective in leaving this file?

What the US, Japan, South Korea pursue with regard to North Korea is that North Korea should destroy all of its nuclear arms and transform its heavy water reactors to light water reactors and stop the building of nuclear weapons. So long as North Korea refuses to take such measures, there will be no change in these countries’ relations with North Korea.

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