KBS Window on Korea: "Close Up North Korea " Video Clip
Language: Korean Subtitle: English
Anchor: This is "Close Up North Korea." We provide a penetrating analysis of N. Korean currents.
N. Korea is pressing on with its historically unprecedented 3rd generation succession of power within the Kim family. The next generation of N. Korea's power elite is also rapidly succeeding their parents' top positions. "Close up North Korea" takes a look at N. Korea's closed and feudalistic class structure. Kim Jong-il has recently carried out a reshuffle of highest ranking military personnel.
Chosun Central Television: “On the occasion of this deeply prescient ‘Day of the Sun,’ the following People's Army Commanders have been elevated within the army accordingly. Now ranking as Colonel Generals... O Il-jong, Hwang Byeong-soh...”
Narrator: O Il-jong was the most significant amongst this list of 45 individuals promoted to Colonel General. First made a general in 1992, O was finally made a 2 star general after 18 years in Sept. 2010 and was appointed to the post of Party military head. The Party Military head is an important role commanding N. Korea's 6 million strong reserve forces of Workers, Peasant Red Guards, Red Young Guards, and Pacification Corps. Then within only 6 months, he was fast tracked to the position of 3 star general. O Il-jong(57) is the 3rd son of O Jin-u who was a leading figure in the N. Korean revolution. He was instrumental in cementing the succession process of Kim Jong-il. His son is now expected to play a central role in shoring up the legitimacy of Kim Jong-un's succession.
Nam Sung-wook (Institute for National Security and Strategy): “These younger rising figures associated with the accession of Kim Jong-un are occupying top positions in the country. They are following in the footsteps of their fathers or grandfathers.
Narrator: Kim Jong-un was promoted to the rank of General last Sept. just before the Korean Worker's Party(KWP) Representatives Meeting, Here he made his public entry onto the political stage.
Central Chosun TV (28th Sept. 2010): “The following People's Army Commanders have been elevated within the army accordingly. Now ranking as Generals... Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-un, Choi Ryong-hae...
Narrator: Choi Ryong-hae(61)'s promotion was also significant. At last year's KWP Rep. Meeting, Choi was made Secretary in charge of the KWP Worker's Alliance, He's a Candidate member of the politburo of the Central Committee of the Party and a member of the Central Military Commission, He has suddenly emerged as a figure wielding significant influence in Kim Jong-un's hereditary succession process. He is the son of Choi Hyun, former head of the People's Armed Forces, Choi Hyun was an anti-Japanese partisan who fought alongside Kim Il-sung.
O Baek-ryong's two sons are also rising through the ranks. He was a renowned partisan fighter and former head of the army. His first born son O Guem-chol was head of the People's Air Force until 2008. At last year's KWP Rep. Meeting he was assigned to the Central Committee of the Party. His younger brother O Cheol-san is on the People's Navy Political Committee and is a candidate for the Party Central Committee.
The placing of 2nd generation members of the elite class in high positions within the economic sphere is similarly conspicuous. Last month, former Foreign Minister Baek Nam-su's 3rd son Baek Ryong-chon was made president of the Central Chosun Bank, It is N. Korea's bank of issue. Korea Foreign Insurance Company's head Soh Dong-myong, is the 1st son of Soh Cheol, The elder statesman was an anti-Japanese fighter. He was the former Party secretary and Head of the National Inspectorate.
In foreign affairs administration, Rhee Yong-ho is now Deputy Foreign Minister. His father is a former confidante of Kim Jong-il and head secretary. The presence of former Foreign Minister Huh Dam's son Huh Cheol-hui again demonstrates the 2nd generation's role.
Nam Sung-wook: “These individuals are being promoted because of the aura associated with their parents. They haven't demonstrated any special abilities or produced major achievements. This is a new phenomenon emerging during the 3rd hereditary succession.”
Narrator: Since the late-1950s, N. Korea undertook an investigation into the composition of its society, classifying the population as loyal, wavering, or hostile. People are discriminated against openly or secretly. It is based on a detailed classification of 51 categories. The first basis for class assignment in N. Korea is birth; The second is loyalty to the regime. Everything in N. Korea is ranked according to the unitary leadership of the Supreme Leader. So social standing also determines economic status.
The highest ranking status in N. Korea belongs to the bloodline of Kim Il-sung, and the fighters who took part in partisan action in the battle for independence from the Japanese, Those classified as heroes of the Korean War also rank first. They configure 1% of the population and monopolized positions of power after the establishment of the N. Korean state. They live in the best available housing in Pyongyang and other big cities. They enjoy the best medical services the country has to offer. Their children are given priority access to N. Korea's most reputed schools and universities. They are then eased into the ranks of the elite. They occupy many of N. Korea's overseas positions.
Nam Sung-wook: “The 2nd generation of N. Korea's power brokers take the elite courses, whether at school or in the military. Children of the elite attend the best schools such as Je-il Middle School in Pyongyang, They then graduate from Kim Il-sung University, and go on to complete their military service in comfortable senior roles in Pyongyang.”
Narrator: Together with these top-class elites the upper-middle class elites (30%) constitute the core class of the society. They are usually Party members, government officials, and military officers.
The so-called wavering class (50%,) is made up of farm workers, general laborers, And office workers who are not party members. They are low level officials and technocrats. It is possible for an individual of outstanding personal ability to elevate his or her status to the core class. The hostile class (20%) is composed of those whose conduct has been branded as impure or subversive. They are families of those who were land owners or capitalists and those who worked as officials under Japanese occupation, Plus, those who fled South during the Korean War. They include members of N. Korea's elite who were demoted because of their political or economic offences. Those belonging to this 20% strata of the populace cannot attend university, or occupy positions within the officer class of the military. It is impossible for those born into the hostile class to hold high-level positions in N. Korean society.
Lee Yun-keol (Chairman of NKSIS): "The matter of personnel assignment in N. Korea is done according to people's birth status or social background. In the case of special selection, they are really one in a thousand. And with regard to other posts, you will not be recruited if there's something questionable in your family background."
Narrator: Members of the elite families are rapidly being assigned to positions in Kim Jong-un's hereditary power base. Kim Jong-il is basing the process of assembling his son's succession system around an ancestral bloodline approach.
His sister Kim Kyong-hui is a member of the Party Politburo and Minister of Light Industry. Her husband Jang Sung-taek is a candidate member of the Party Politburo, Minister of Administration, a member of the Party Central Military Commission, and Deputy Chairman of the National Defense Commission. They bring together the power of the Party, the military and the political. Since last year, they have shadowed Kim Jong-il and Jong-un on their on-the-spot nationwide inspection travels. They are making sure that no cracks appear in the system during the process of passing on power to Kim Jong-un.
Choi Ryong-hae, O Il-jong, Baek Ryong-chon And others are comparatively young members of the elite's 2nd generation. They are forming the vanguard of pro-Kim Jong-un forces as the hereditary process takes shape.
Nam Sung-uk: For Kim Jong-il, the absolute key point in the posting or approval of any individual is that person's sense of loyalty. They have a need to bolster loyalty and discourage treachery in order to maintain the regime. They especially have to send the message that no one is to defy authority. This is in the wake of the peoples' protests in the Middle East.
Narrator: The 2nd generation of the original highest elites in N. Korea have had their loyalty verified. In placing them in top positions of power Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are creating power bases whose destinies are intertwined with themselves. In so doing, they're seeking to ensure successful continuation of the Kim family's absolute authority and system. The 2nd generation elite family appointees carry the legitimate symbolic blood ties. They link to the "succession of the Baekdu mountain" and "succession of the revolutionaries of tradition." Kim Jong-un's accession to power is being presented under this mantle.
Lee Yun-keol: "If N. Korea's whole strategic goal is to stabilize the succession system, the basis of stabilization is the succession of the revolutionary tradition. That is its core strategy. The succession of the children of those who were loyal to Kim Il-sung can be said to be its most important strategy. "
Narrator: For the 60 years of its existence, socialist N. Korea has stressed equality. The people of N. Korea who labored faithfully in this belief are coming to see it as nothing more than a term of political expediency. N. Korea's impenetrable class system has been the core means by which the socialist system and Kim Family's absolute dictatorship have been maintained. It has been the chief factor in the irreversible sense of powerlessness, deprivation, and inferiority held by the 70% of the nation assigned to the wavering and hostile classes.
In the last 60 years in N. Korea, this fixity of rank according to birth status has imbued the individual with a strong sense of place in the North Korean class structure. Potential hostile sentiment between classes have grown, especially in view of the continuation of absolute power through three successive Kim family dictators. And by instituting a succession of elite families' 2nd generation members inheriting the highest positions of power, they have compounded the sense of deprivation N. Koreans feel.
Though N. Korea represses discontent through strict surveillance and control this closed and feudalistic class system is becoming a point of threatening uncertainty to the regime.
Lee Yun-keol: "Inequality and imbalanced distribution... These things illustrate how the North is already beyond the point where they could have changed the downward curve of the society... It's a point that the people of N. Korea have already grasped. Neither ideological education nor mass events of any kind will be able to undo this, in my opinion."
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