Chairman Yun-keol Lee's Interview with MBN TODAY MBN TODAY Video Clip and Transcript Aired February 16, 2011, 08:30am
ANCHOR: Today is the 69th birthday of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il, which is the biggest official day in the North. What kind of events take place on a day like this? YUN-KEOL LEE, CHAIRMAN OF NKSIS: Two main events take place on February 16th, on Kim Jong-il's birthday. First, there are group activities. At around 17:00, an event called commemorative conference report takes place, and then comes the celebration performances. Organizations with more than 100 members of the Party each prepare celebration performance with its own members for about a month. So, one, the participants of the event would watch those performances taking part in it, and two, they would have a special private time of rest with just the family.
ANCHOR: Have recent aggravation of the food shortage resulted in any changes in the atmosphere [of Kim Jong-il's birthday celebration]? LEE: Since there had already been over 10 years of food shortage, it is not a special circumstance for the North. Rather, their difficulty is that people have come to suffer great damages concerning currency and value of the physical assets within less than 2 years ever since the Currency Reform on November 30th, 2009. Currency Reform increased the value of money by exchanging 1 won(new currency) with 100 won(old currency), but now, [as the prices rose up greatly,] the value of new currency fell greatly.
ANCHOR: The recent rapid process of hereditary power succession is said to have gained even more speed owing to Kim Jong-il's health problems. Had Kim Jong-un's succession already been decided unofficially, and is it currently being arranged? LEE: No. We should understand that Kim Jong-un's succession is now 'officially recognized' as he made his official and international appearance, just like Kim Jong-il had done through the 6th Party Conference in 1980. Kim Jong-il was actually born on February 16th, 1941, so it is more likely that he became 70 this year in Korean age.
ANCHOR: While Kim Jong-un's succession is being arranged, the first and the second son are ousted from power. And recently, the second son Kim Jong-chul is said to have watched the Eric Clapton concert in Singapore accompanied by a bunch of women. How should we see this? LEE: It is noteworthy that he came with over 20 people [which illustrates Kim Jong-chul’s influence.] The fact that he had come with only two or three people five years ago in the past, but now with 20 can imply that though he himself has failed to be an heir, Kim Jong-chul is still aiding the 3rd hereditary succession of Kim Jong-un, as the North Korean special reports say. It is reasonable to think that he is assisting his brother, since Kim Jong-chul has been reported to have worked as the as director of the Organization and Guidance Department in the Party's Central Committee under Ri Je-gang who passed away several months ago, according to the N. Korea special reports. Jong-chul and Jong-un were born from the same mother, which makes their relationship somewhat different from that of Jong-un and his half brother Jong-nam. (As Kim Jong-il's relationship with his half brother Kim Pyoung-il when he first emerged.)
ANCHOR: How should we interpret the recent restoration of the Workers Party's Room 38, which is like a private safe for Kim Jong-il? LEE: We should basically understand how Room 38 and 39 were first established. Room 39 was established to finance Kim Jong-il when he was selected an heir unofficially in 1973, whereas Room 38 was established in 1986 as one of the two main organizations that manage his slush funds under the Central Party's Ministry of Finance and Economy. Room 38 is located in Ahansan-dong, Joong District in Pyongyang. We should note how 1986 was the year Chairman Kim Jong-il was officially made the Great Leader, and also the year drug dealing was permitted calling it ''White Bellflower Project'. Considering this, therefore, restoring Room 38 might be their attempt to break through economic difficulties.
ANCHOR: How do you look at the report of an executive of North Korea, ranking battalion commander, committing suicide from famine and the unusual unrest around the North? LEE: It is a possibility since it is usual for a former-soldier executive (except for the political or security officers) to have a financial difficulty. However, if we don't determine whether it is a common or sporadic incident, it might also mislead us.
ANCHOR: Lately people are also talking about how the tanks have appeared in Pyongyang, allegedly to suppress a possible riot. Looking at these, can't we expect any internal changes of the North? LEE: It is possible, though the tank company they are talking about have always been there. More important than this, a mechanized unit is stationed under Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. It could be there to prevent a possible coup.
ANCHOR: Do you think a rise for democratization could also happen in the North as in Egypt? How do you look at the opinions of some NK experts, that the North will definitely provoke the South more than twice this year? LEE: I doubt it because, even if the North Korean civilians have such information about outside world, there isn't yet any key revolutionary force to lead the movement as in Egypt. Secondly, their social consciousness cannot tell if their circumstances are unreasonable. In other words, because they do not have mature consciousness of democracy, they do not see themselves under the tyranny of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un as the South Korean or Egyptian citizens do. They don't have enough information to do that. Their perceptions can change, depending on our efforts.
I think that their provocation will increase as the exercises to strengthen the alliance between Korea and U.S., such as Key Resolve, increase, as their economic difficulties worsen, and as their hereditary power succession process become unstable.
ANCHOR: It was Lee Yun-keol, the chairman of North Korea Strategic Information Service Center. Thank you.
Translation by Hoyeon Choi Supervised by Young Cho
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