Kim Jong-un has ordered investigation into death of S. Korean official, NIS says

Posted on : 2020-11-04 17:34 KST Modified on : 2020-11-04 17:34 KST
N. Korean leader expected to be elevated to rank of “grand marshal”
National Intelligence Service Director Park Jie-won talks with First Deputy Director Kim Sang-gyun during a parliamentary audit of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee on Nov. 3. (photo pool)
National Intelligence Service Director Park Jie-won talks with First Deputy Director Kim Sang-gyun during a parliamentary audit of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee on Nov. 3. (photo pool)

South Korean intelligence authorities have obtained evidence indicating that North Korea has conducted an investigation on orders from leader Kim Jong-un into the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of a South Korean fisheries official in the West Sea. Kim’s stature is also expected to be elevated to that of “grand marshal” at the 8th Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Congress next January -- putting him roughly on par with his predecessors, father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung -- while his younger sister, WPK Central Commission First Vice Department Director Kim Yo-jong, is expected to assume a higher-ranked position.

Lawmakers Kim Byung-kee and Ha Tae-keung, the respective Democratic Party and People Power Party secretaries for the National Assembly National Intelligence Committee, related the information on Nov. 3 as having been reported by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) during a closed-door parliamentary audit of the agency at its headquarters in Seoul’s Seocho District.

“Based on the intelligence, there is evidence related to [North Korea’s] search for the [official’s] remains,” Ha explained.

“There were orders to investigate the circumstances of the incident on orders from Kim Jong-un,” he added.

Intelligence authorities have determined that after reports that the South Korean military had overheard intelligence from the North Korean military in the wake of the official’s shooting death, North Korea responded by beefing up its communications security by cutting off its communications network and changing its system of code.

Kim Yo-jong also expected to be promoted to higher position

Ha also said, “Kim Yo-jong is currently a politburo candidate member, and [the NIS] predicts that she will be elevated to a higher position within the party during the 8th WPK Congress next January.”

“Kim Jong-un is currently a ‘marshal,’ and there is a possibility he will be raised to ‘grand marshal,’” he added. Kim Jong-il was posthumously elevated to the status of grand marshal in 2012 after being named a “marshal of the Republic” in 1992, while Kim Il-sung was given the title of marshal in 1953 and grand marshal in 1992. Kim Byung-kee said, “There is a possibility that the 8th WPK Congress will include changes to the power structure to increase Kim Jong-un’s stature and the announcement of new elements of internal and external strategy.” He added that the NIS is “watching developments closely, as this could be a major inflection point for the North Korean regime.”

Kim Yo-jong, who is currently understood to supervise relations with South Korea and the US, has also extended beyond her foreign affairs and national security remit to oversee an event for the WPK’s 75th anniversary this year and has recently been involved in governance activities such as supervising livelihood issues in connection with COVID-19 prevention and flood damages, sources reported.

Also reported was evidence of a shift in focus in Kim Jong-un’s governing approach from its past emphasis on “field” activities to a recent emphasis on “policy leadership.” In other words, the “on-the-spot guidance” activities that he previously performed himself have been entrusted to key associates so that he can focus more on policy and supervising WPK meetings. Ha noted that Kim has “personally presided over 17 meetings this year,” explaining that this represented a “nearly six-fold increase” compared with past years. While Kim has gained weight since coming to power in 2012, he is reportedly not suffering from any health issues.

N. Korea’s has “zero material or technical means” of responding to COVID-19

Details were also reported about North Korea’s COVID-19 countermeasures. In particular, an emergency disease control law states that military officials who fail to properly implement disease control measures are subject to punishment according to military law, with a maximum penalty of death.

“Apparently, there was a document at a WPK politburo meeting this February that stated that ‘300,000 to 500,000 people might die if [COVID-19] enters,’ and that North Korea had ‘zero material or technical means of responding to COVID-19,’” Ha said.

“They’re terrified beyond imagining,” he added.

By Noh Ji-won, staff reporter

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