Friday, December 20, 2013

Irrationality: A Family Tradition

And you thought your family was bad...

It's been about a week since the news broke that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un had executed his uncle, Jang Song-Thaek. In a series of expedited events, Kim had publicly arrested, tried, and publicly executed his uncle. As the second most powerful man in the country, Jang, the vice-chairman of North Korea's top military body, helped to secure Kim's ascendancy after his father's death. Thus despite the litany of charges against Jang, speculation has been circulating about Kim's hasty moves.

If there ever was an inkling of transparency into North Korea, the lights are definitely out now. This surprising event leads many to question their original analyses on the status quo of North Korea, especially since the government released 85-year-old this week, Merrill Newman, yet still are holding on to prisoner Kenneth Bae. Many believe this brutal execution is just the beginning of other brinkmanship moves on behalf of Kim and his government.

So why was Jang put to death? In the humiliating list of charges against him, the most potent to the regime was the accusation of trying to overthrow the state. Was this fear or strength on the part of the young leader? Regardless, many suggest this move is a symbol that he is weaker than his father. In a seeming attempt at total control, this violent demonstration of power may have been his attempt to show that he's not afraid to make tough choices.

In fact, this ruthless act may have him more tied to the likes of his grandfather, Kim Il-Song. Besides the physical likeness, the young Kim has revived the tradition of a public political surge. While his grandfather's brutal use of purging may have been incited by his paranoia from his guerrilla days in Manchuria, what is driving the young leader's Stalin-esque paranoia? Many believe it is weakness. After all last year Kim also made a surprising move and removed his top general Ri Yong Ho, and axed his relationship with the Worker's Party. By attacking the military and the party, especially those so close to him, the purging at the very least is signifying some instability in the regime. If the leader cannot trust his top officials, and is trying to consolidate his power, we are bound to see some more unpredictable moves from the DPPK's leader.

Kim will probably continue to try and push the fold and the fear of other possible irrational actions, like testing a nuclear weapon, now seems more plausible. For analysts, trying to discern the next moves of this regime is in fact, quite a guessing game. At the moment there are no reports about troop movements or other t may just have to be a waiting game to see what new revelation will come out of Pyongyang. Maybe it's time for Dennis Rodman to step in...

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