South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has warned that inter-Korean relations could destabilize following the imposition of a “reign of terror” that on Sunday saw Jang Song Thaek being arrested for multiple anti-party and anti-state crimes.
Her warning, made at a cabinet meeting held in Seoul on Tuesday, came amid continued and increasingly critical North Korean media coverage of Jang Song Thaek’s “elimination” from the party.
“North Korea is currently engaged in a reign of terror while carrying out massive purges in order to consolidate Kim Jong Un’s power. The South-North relations could become more unstable in the future,” Park said in comments broadcast on South Korean television.
“The situation in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula is rapidly changing. We are in a situation where we cannot lower our guard against North Korean threats and changes in its circumstances,” Park warned.
Meanwhile, North Korean newspaper the Rodong Sinmun continued its invective against Jang Song Thaek in another highly critical article Tuesday that included several aggressive remarks quoted from local citizens disgusted by Jang’s crimes.
Pro-North Korea publication Choson Shinbo added to condemnation of Kim Jong Un’s former regent by saying that it was an appropriate and right decision for Pyongyang to remove Jang from power.
And on Tuesday the Korea Central News Agency reiterated the rationale for “eliminating” Jang, pointing out that following “dangerous factional acts” the party had to “decisively purge his group”. That followed major efforts to scrub Jang’s likeness out of North Korean TV propaganda over the weekend.
WHERE IS JANG?
As Jang has become estranged from his glory of past time, a key question now surrounds the whereabouts of Jang, his aides and family.
On Monday unconfirmed reports made by Free North Korea Radio said that Jang and his aides had actually been executed on December 5, four days before Sunday’s reported special meeting of the Political Bureau.
However, an unnamed government official told South Korea’s News 1 that Seoul believes there is a high possibility that Jang has not been executed but detained without trial. News 1 said that Jang had likely been detained prior to the release of pictures showing him being arrested at Sunday’s special meeting.
Sources told News 1 that North Korean authorities likely forced Jang to participate in the public meeting to create useful propaganda depicting his humiliating removal from office.
Meanwhile, news that close aides of Jang Song Thaek had attempted to recently defect to North Korea were rejected by South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae. In addition, Yonhap News Agency said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Tae-yeong also said that his ministry had not yet learned any information about high profile asylum requests.
On Friday intelligence community sources confirmed to NK News that there had so far been no reports of high profile Jang-aide defections.
WHAT LOCALS THINK
One source currently in Pyongyang told NK News that when news of Jang Song Thaek’s dismissal was broadcast on domestic television, “everyone was quiet and glued to the TV…people looked very serious”.
Another source who currently works in Pyongyang told NK News, “The situation is currently “normal” if looking at the surface – what I can see in the streets is business as usual. But after presenting the whole thing in the national newspapers and on TV – repeatedly – I guess the people are scared.”
One source who regularly works with North Koreans told NK News that a sense of frustration among younger North Koreans was now palpable.
“All of them are saying the same thing now: “I don’t know what I can do, what I will be, and what I should do,” the source explained. Younger generations simply do not know where they fit when viewing the purge of mainstream characters such as Jang, the source added.
Additional reporting by Chad O’Carroll in London
Main picture: Eric Lafforgue
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