North Korea’s despotic dynasty, created by Il-sung Kim, has been passed down to the third-generation as Jung-eun Kim, the 29 years-old son of Jung-il Kim. While specific details are unknown, major social changes are expected to take place in the near future. Rodong Sinmun, the North Korean newspaper of the Workers and Jung-Ang Broadcasting Station, the North Korean radio station, has reported that the new North Korean government is focusing on development of advanced technologies and knowledge-based industries. It is believe that the significant changes in Education and Science-Technology will be required, and the allocation of human resources in the Science-Technology Department will provide insight into the future of Jung-eun Kim’s North Korean regime
On Feb 16, 2012, Rodong Sinmun reported the promotion of Seng-du Kim, the Dean of Lee-kwa University, to the Chair of Education Committee. Kim’s new position is a significant one and can be compared to the Principal of KAIST in Dae-jeon, South Korea, held by Nam-pyo Seo, a highly respected and world-renown scientist who holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. from the CarnegieMellonUniversity. In 2008, he was promoted to be the Dean of KAIST in recognition of his many achievements and 50 years of contribution to the field of science.
Seng-du Kim’s promotion is a noted departure from the “usual” North Korean political personnel move, being from the military clique was considered as an absolute necessity to become an administrative executive. Seng-du Kim, like Jik-Tong Saeng, entered university right after graduating from high school and does not have any work experiences. He initially studied Applied Mathematic, but in his Junior Year he changed his major to Bio-physics. In 1983, Mr. Kim joined the faculty at Lee-kwaUniversity after graduating at the top of his class. He has since obtained M.A. and Ph.D. in Bio-Physics. Mr. Kim’s rapid rise to prominence has been remarkable as he became the Dean of Lee-kwa University in only 15 years, and the Chair of Education Committee in less than 20 years.
Generally, the top administrative positions are held by members from three classes: a class of labor or military families with bachelor’s degrees, a class of North Korean partisans that has supported Il-sung Kim, and descendants from Jung-il Kim’s subordinates. Since the Chair of Education Committee is regarded as one of the highest ranking positions, all former Chairs of the Education Committee were graduates of Il-SungKimUniversity. An unprecedented promotion of SengDu Kim, a scholar without any class background, to the Chair of Education Committee, which was a part of a cabinet reshuffle, implies that dramatic changes are taking place in North Korea. The promotion of a professor to the one of the highest ranking posts is a part of the North Korea’s new plan to establish a knowledge-based economy based on development of high technology. In other words, North Korea recognizes the necessity of highly trained human resources for the future and is building a foundation for a technology industry and not simply relying only on propaganda or agitation for communism.
While Seng-du Kim’s promotion is a dramatic development, this is not the first time. On Sep 18, 2009, Che-ol Jang was promoted to the Chair of North Korea’s National Academy of Science (NKNAS) following the nomination of Jung-eun Kim as the heir-apparent to Jung-il Kim. Jang’s promotion seems to indicate that North Korea is appointing Science experts to lead high tech fields with the aim of economic recovery. In North Korea, the Chair of National Academy of Science (NKNAS) of North Korea is considered to be a higher position than the Chair of National Academy of Science (NAS) of the Republic of Korea: in North Korea, NKNAS controls all scientific research including innovations in research techniques, but in South Korea, private businesses take the lead in research and development. Jang’s position of the Chair of NKNAS compares to a position of Minister in South Korea.
Che-ol Jang, a graduate of Lee-kwaUniversity, is a semiconductor expert whose doctoral thesis led to North Korean development of its own semiconductors. Mr. Jang is in early 50’s (2 years older than Seng-du Kim), and has worked at Lee-kwaUniversity as an administrative researcher before being named to be the Chief of NKNAS. His rise is similar to that of Jik-Tong Saeng.
The recent personnel changes seems to be a part of a plan to continue the Third Five-year Development Plan in 2012, even though the National Science and Technology Committee had separated from NKNAS in 2009. Also, the appointment of Seng-du Kim, a professor in his early 50’s to a high ranking position, points to North Korea making an effort to place professionals in fields of Education and Industries as well as Science.
Promotions of Che-ol Jang and Seng-du Kim, science experts with Ph.D.s, to the Chair of Science and Education are dramatic developments because this is the first time Jung-eun Kim had appointed scholars or professors to be members of ‘Power Elite’. In other words, these promotions are significant in understanding Jung-eun Kim and how he plans to rule the country.
It is evident that North Korea will continue to experience difficulty in improving its economy unless reforms, including opening their communist economic system to free market economy, are successfully implemented. North Korea’s pursuit of an economy based on knowledge, development of new technologies and communication infrastructures improvements all will require tremendous amount of capital investment, but the capital is in short supply. The only way the North Korean government can raise new capital investment required by the plan is to open their markets, but their centrally planned economy of political communism stands as the barrier. Promotions of Seng-du Kim and Che-ol Jang seem to be a part of Jung-eun Kim’s plan, and the recent changes may reflect Jung-eun Kim’s concerns about the state of their current society.
Translation by Hyunjeong Joyce Rho Supervised by Sunny Kang
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