Power struggle or purge in North Korea?

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I am writing to propose an alternative interpretation to the one proposed in article 'The Desperate Dictator' regarding Kim Jong—Il's hold on power. In this article you refer to a previous article 'Confusing Signals' to support the theory that KJI was in the midst of an ongoing power struggle.

In 2004 there was evidence of a shift in power in DPRK in the form of missing portraits and lapel pins. I have seen this referred to multiple times including I believe the New York Times. In each case the only explanation offered has been a potential power struggle, but I find that unlikely. In fact, I would think that if KJI were in trouble, the portraits would be the last to reveal anything since no one would ever want to tip their hand. I'm not an expert, but this just doesn't seem like how a totalitarian state works. Information and power must be compartmentalized or Kim could not retain his hold on power. Certainly, if he is skilled at nothing else, he is good at that.

This puzzled me, but I once read (sorry, i don't have a citation offhand) that the South Korean border guards have reported that in the past they have heard announcements from the north that they believe were meant to trick potential disloyal DPRK guards into attempting to defect or reveal themselves in some way. Now this sounds like how a totalitarian state works, no?

With this clue, I believe a likely explanation is that KJI was in the midst of not a power struggle, but a purge. Send out signs of a power shift, look for any evidence of disloyalty, and you know who the weak links are. The key to keeping everyone loyal isn't so much what they think, but what they are willing to say and do. If they are always guessing whether or not its a test they will always be scared to reveal any disloyalty and that is the same as being loyal.

The reason this two year old occurrence is still important is that it affects our interpretation of KJI's situation today. He may be in trouble, but we can not afford to misread ambiguous evidence. In fact, he may have a firm grip on power in the DPRK but is concerned about appearing weak to the outside world.

John C. Pagano, Tokyo, Japan   10 15 06

I am writing to propose an alternative interpretation to the one proposed in article 'The Desperate Dictator' regarding Kim Jong—Il's hold on power. In this article you refer to a previous article 'Confusing Signals' to support the theory that KJI was in the midst of an ongoing power struggle.

In 2004 there was evidence of a shift in power in DPRK in the form of missing portraits and lapel pins. I have seen this referred to multiple times including I believe the New York Times. In each case the only explanation offered has been a potential power struggle, but I find that unlikely. In fact, I would think that if KJI were in trouble, the portraits would be the last to reveal anything since no one would ever want to tip their hand. I'm not an expert, but this just doesn't seem like how a totalitarian state works. Information and power must be compartmentalized or Kim could not retain his hold on power. Certainly, if he is skilled at nothing else, he is good at that.

This puzzled me, but I once read (sorry, i don't have a citation offhand) that the South Korean border guards have reported that in the past they have heard announcements from the north that they believe were meant to trick potential disloyal DPRK guards into attempting to defect or reveal themselves in some way. Now this sounds like how a totalitarian state works, no?

With this clue, I believe a likely explanation is that KJI was in the midst of not a power struggle, but a purge. Send out signs of a power shift, look for any evidence of disloyalty, and you know who the weak links are. The key to keeping everyone loyal isn't so much what they think, but what they are willing to say and do. If they are always guessing whether or not its a test they will always be scared to reveal any disloyalty and that is the same as being loyal.

The reason this two year old occurrence is still important is that it affects our interpretation of KJI's situation today. He may be in trouble, but we can not afford to misread ambiguous evidence. In fact, he may have a firm grip on power in the DPRK but is concerned about appearing weak to the outside world.

John C. Pagano, Tokyo, Japan   10 15 06