North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seems to be moving all the more closer to his late father’s style of functioning. The public display of pictures showing Kim’s uncle being removed from a party meeting shows the reclusive state and its perfunctory leadership acting in a way unbecoming of a matured state. Chang Song-thaek was North Korea’s second most powerful personality and was a key figure in talks with Pyongyang’s closest ally China. Now, he stands purged. Earlier, the bespectacled leader was sacked from all official positions and news also leaked that two of his close aides were executed.
Chang has been accused of ganging up against the state, forming anti-state factions, corruption and engaging in acts of depravity like drug abuse and womanising. In images broadcast yesterday, he has been shown being approached at a party meeting by uniformed guards who hold his arm and escort him out as other officials look on without betraying much emotion. Like other things North Korean, the act of physically removing a senior leader from a public meeting is not only ridiculous, but also ludicrous. It smacks of severe acrimony within the governing structure of the state ruled according to the whims and fancies of Kim. Opaque societies like North Korea where traditional social and familial structures seem to have survived the onslaught of attempts at westernisation would be loathe to insult patriarchal and fatherly figures that Chang was portrayed to be during his stint as Kim’s closest aide.
Surprisingly, images of Chang in a documentary showing him with the ruler have also been removed.
After the death of Kim Jong-il, father of the current ruler, the North had shown subtle signs of change. Western powers, long used to the defiant stand of the ageing Kim saw a glimmer of hope in the last front of the Cold War. Because of his age and a demeanour seen to be largely shaped by a supposed educational stint in the West, the young Kim was thought of as one who would be more conciliatory than his father. Photographs of him seen in public with a woman did the rounds of the international press. After much speculation she was found to be his wife. So, he has a heart, thought many! They may be wrong. Chang was considered a mentor of Kim. Over the last few days, however, he has been cast as a villain and slapped with labels like ‘womaniser’ and ‘deprave’. The cryptic government of the state, which has been locked in a bitter rivalry with technologically advanced South Korea for decades, wants the world to lift sanctions that are believed to be making the population of the country suffer silently.
With the latest purge, Kim is showing the world — as is his wont — that he will brook no dissent. The publicly broadcast footage is meant to send a message to dissenters. This episode shows that political dissent may be crawling up the thickly guarded walls of the authoritarian state’s regime•