Is Kim Jong Eun Already the Most Hated Man in North Korea?

More reports from Open News claim that the deification of Kim Jong-Eun is causing a backlash of discontent among the North Korean people:

The source explained that “The punishment for attacking the government within North Korea is execution, so instead there have been outbreaks of criticism through graffiti across train stations, apartment walls, market places, and public buildings”¦according to others the graffiti expresses very strong discontent with Kim Jeong-Eun’s appointment as successor.

The last time there were multiple reports of anti-regime graffiti and leafleting was during the Great Famine. Since then, as people learned to survive through markets, a tense truce took hold between the people and the state. That tense truce may be breaking down.

The security forces have responded with dragnets, interrogations, and the mass collection of writing samples, which will probably just alienate the population more. That is how the regime tends to alienate the population in most insurgencies. Meanwhile, it’s entirely possible that the people who actually painted the slogans are traveling merchants who have long since left the vicinity.

At an art school, someone has found a practical use for the musings of Kim Jong Il:

On October 18, a source of Yanggangdo reported that “around the middle of October, parts of the book “˜Brightening the Times of the Principal Agent’ was found inmmersed in feces in the female staff restroom of Hyesan Art School, Yanggangdo. The National Security Agency and Censorship Commission has been mobilized in an effort to find the perpetrator. The book’ contained an image of Kim Jeong-il on the cover and it is therefore assumed that the act, of depositing the picture within the feces, was deliberate. In the North it is restricted by law to use any paper, with Kim Jeong-il’s picture printed on, instead of tissues. []

This report claims that those brought in to participate in the big parade looted food and televisions from homes in the area where they were practicing:

Lastly, according to the source, “the dissatisfaction of the citizens is aimed at Kim Jeong-Eun. Now they have had to suffer burglary on top of a serious food shortage and the grave need for social support. They are blaming Kim Jeong-Eun for everything criticizing “even Kim Jeong-Eun, the (expletive) son, is tormenting us.

You know, my fingers get cramps from even asking the question: aren’t North Koreans being a little unfair to Kim Jong-Eun? Personally, I’ve never believed that Jong-Eun was being elevated to a position where he could direct national policy in North Korea, though this AFP report, attributed to North Korean Intellectuals’ Solidarity, suggests that he’s just been given free reign to purge “old generation” apparatchiks:

“About 15 heavyweight officials, many of them military, are being investigated for turning a blind eye to people fleeing the country and being involved in smuggling activities,” the spokesman told AFP. [….]

The crackdown, which would be expanded into a nationwide campaign, was a “politically-motivated purge” aimed at replacing longstanding military members with younger officials more loyal to Jong-Un, said the spokesman.

“This is a purge for generational change… senior officials are trembling with fear because they don’t know where heads are going to roll,” he said.

Well, maybe.

To begin with, I always question anyone’s basis to attribute motives to particular personalities in a place as opaque as Pyongyang. There are plenty of other, more plausible possibilities here. For one thing, I suspect that corruption in the northern border area really is so severe and so perilous to the regime’s survival that any rational psychopath would order a purge there. It’s possible that Kim Jong-Eun is either leading local purges or being held up as their architect, though I’d guess some older member of the royal family is pulling his strings. It’s even possible that Kim Jong Il really believes that he can really elevate Jong-Eun to a position of real power before he’s finally rolled off to the meat locker, but it’s hard to imagine that Jong-Eun would hold any real power for long. I’m not surprised to see him being given his little sandboxes to play in — a military unit here, a purge there, and maybe another series of hundred-day battles. But the right to play in the sandbox doesn’t mean you own the deed to the back yard.

And there’s this: it is a very dangerous thing when “senior” North Korean officials, including people with guns, are “trembling with fear” of you. Or so we can hope.

The weight of the evidence suggests that Jong-Eun is being deified for the domestic audience. The most likely reason for this is to create an illusion of continuity between Kim Il Sung and those who will really wield the power (apparently, the junta that’s seizing control in North Korea thinks this is a good illusion to create). But if Jong-Eun’s true role is as a propaganda prop, then his usefulness to the new junta isn’t apparent. It has only taken Kim Jong-Eun a year to make himself loathed at every level of North Korean society. That is an ironic thing if you doubt, as I do, that he has ever made a decision of any real consequence on his own.

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