Multiple high level sources reported on May 5th that the power of the North Korean Military Security Ministry (formerly known as the Military Security Command) has reached the point where it has supervisory and investigative rights over trade companies run by Office 39 and the Rungra 888 Trading Corporation. Office 39 is the Worker's Party's chief foreign currency generating organ. Rungra 888 operates under the direct responsibility of Kim Jong-il.
"On the 13th April," said the source, "the People's Army's Military Security Ministry Nason Office launched an investigation of all twenty employees of the Nason Myohyang trading company's branch office including the head of the branch and its party secretary. The company is overseen by Office 39." The Myohyang Trading Company imports luxury products for Kim Jong-il and his closest associates as well as high quality building materials. It was the company involved in the Banco Delta Asia case of 2005 in which $25 million of North Korean funds were frozen in its Macau account. The Myohyang suspects have been detained on suspicion of management corruption, in particular with relation to charges of secretly accepting bribes from South Korean intelligence agencies. The source relates that the company's entire staff was taken into custody toward the end of April and transferred for detention to the Military Security Ministry in Pyongyang.
"Not only that," the source went on, "but Department 73, which together with the Organization and Guidance Department raises Kim Jong-il's slush fund, is also being investigated by the Military Security Ministry. From mid-February to late April, the Rungra 888 Trading Corporation came under intense investigation." The Rungra 888 Trading Corporation is overseen by Department 73. Its roster of employees pursues the organization's foreign currency earning raison d'etre in numerous countries. The heads and deputy heads of some bureaux are under investigation for illicit cash transactions with the representatives stationed in China and Libya, as well as the transportation of South Korean made goods. However, the source said that the ultimate focus of this investigation is also linked with the accepting of bribes from South Korean intelligence agencies.
"In the last ten years, the Military Security Ministry wouldn't have dreamed of even trying to launch an investigation of the Workers Party's foreign currency organizations, especially Office 39, which carries a lot of influence," said the source. "So this shows how the Military Security Ministry's power has risen in that time. Its authority has peaked this year."
Moreover, the fact that the investigation of the Party's foreign currency earning agencies was undertaken not by the Military Security Ministry's head office in Pyongyang but by a provincial department in Nason is in itself significant. It is direct evidence that even at its nineteen nineties apex of authority, the then Military Security Command had less reach.
All this demonstrates that the power of the military authorities is greater than that of the Workers Party at present. It is also not unrelated to Kim Jong-un's sudden elevation at last years 3rd Meeting of the Worker's Party Representatives to the position of vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Party. The source believes that as agencies under the supervision not just of the National Defense Commission but of the Central Military Commission of the Party, the General Political Bureau, the Ministry of General Staff, and the Military Security Ministry will grow in power together with Kim Jong-un.
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