07/20/2012, 00.00
NORTH KOREA

Purges, killings and new economy: Kim Jong-un's grab for real power

Joseph Yun Li-sun
After taking over in December, the young dictator has had to put up with the generals. Now, with the sacking of the chief of General Staff, which led to a gun fight that might have killed and wounded 40 people, and the creation of a political bureau to run the economy, changes are coming to the top. A "final struggle" for power is underway, source tells AsiaNews.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - A gun battle broke out when the North Korean regime removed army chief Ri Yong-ho from office last Monday. Some 20 to 30 soldiers died in the incident, this according to South Korea's main daily, Chosun Ilbo, which cited South Korean intelligence sources.

Ri's sacking and replacement with General Hyon Yong-chol (a loyalist of the new dictator, Kim Jong-un) surprised many analysts. Sources told AsiaNews that a final struggle is underway in Pyongyang for real power.

After he took over from his father Kim Jong-il, who died in December, Kim Jong-un now appears to be "taking power away from the generals."

The gun battle apparently broke out when General Choe Ryong-hae (another Kim Jong-un loyalist) tried to arrest Ri, triggering the reaction of his body guards.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that Ri was injured or even killed in the fire fight," said one source.

Two days after Ri's removal, Kim Jong-un proclaimed himself marshal and decided to take over North Korea's dying economy, one of the poorest in the world.

The young dictator set up a 'political bureau' to manage economic affairs, which until recently had been a prerogative of the military.

"In the past, the government had no say in the economy. The military controlled everything. Now things will change," a source told AsiaNews.

 

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