February 25, 2024

Kim Jong Un may be easing reign of terror over elites

Shift from purge by execution to punishment by reeducation possible sign of stabilizing regime

In recent months, there have been numerous cases of North Korean elites reemerging after months of absence from public view. For several of these officials, there is evidence to suggest they were undergoing reeducation and even punishment due to some infraction or shortcoming. These examples may be evidence of a shift in Kim Jong Un’s method of disciplining senior officials and exerting his supreme authority over regime elites. This trend itself may be a sign that Kim and the rest of the core leadership now feel more secure and stable as the rulers of North Korea.

Throughout much of Kim Jong Un’s reign thus far, he has become known for a “reign of terror” in which many senior elites and even his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, have been executed in violent purges intended to remove potentially disloyal or rival elements from the regime. As of July, Kim reportedly has had around 70 senior officials executed since coming to power in December 2011 (not including deaths, by execution or otherwise, of average North Korean citizens).