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Schism in North Korea

The execution of Jang Song Thaek is no laughing matter

Beijing refuses to be drawn on the summary execution of Jang Song Thaek, insisting that this is an internal matter for North Korea.

This is true, but the fact that the leaders of the Pyongyang regime describe themselves as communists — which the imperialist media is happy to confirm — has deeper implications.

The North Korean authorities’ wild rhetoric to describe Jang as a “thrice-cursed traitor” who was “worse than a dog” cannot disguise his central role in the country’s leadership under both supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s father Kim Jong Il and his grandfather Kim Il Sung.

Yet Koreans now learn that he was a corrupt drug-taking womaniser intent on overthrowing Kim Jong Un and making their country a US colony or a satellite of an unnamed “certain big power” — clearly China.

As if these crimes weren’t grim enough, he rose too slowly from his seat to applaud Kim properly and he ordered the siting of a carved granite image of a letter received from the supreme leader in a shady spot behind a secret police office building rather than in front of it.

He also plotted to establish his own dynasty, which highlights the reality that North Korea already has one.
It is hard not to be amused by these efforts to paint Jang as an all-round blackguard. The only crimes omitted are torturing kittens and eating babies, but this is no laughing matter.

Jang’s rapidly organised removal from all positions and his subsequent elimination indicate a serious schism at the heart of the state apparatus.

His role in developing economic links with China and allegations that he sold North Korea short in these bilateral relations could indicate a cooling between Beijing and Pyongyang.

However, the government insists that there will be no change of economic policy and that the strategic partnership with China will continue.

On the other hand, Koreans working in China on bilateral economic projects have been ordered to return home, which could be a risky project in light of Jang’s fate.

His execution may well not be the last in this current power struggle.

What the country’s working people think of the shenanigans at top level is difficult to assess, although states led by workers’ or communist parties generally profess motivation by the working class and its allies.

That doesn’t apply to North Korea, which proclaims its philosophy as Songun, which prioritises the military for allocation of resources and for leading political and economic life.

This explains in part the decline in living standards in North Korea, which used to be higher than in South Korea, resulting in starvation, relief food supplies being sought from international agencies and the setting up of special economic zones in partnership with South Korea and China.

While North Koreans suffer, the ruling dynasty has wanted for nothing, studying overseas and indulging various personal desires — such as basketball buff Kim Jong Un entertaining US star Dennis Rodman on his private island.

No-one could confuse this state of affairs with socialism or any other system to which workers might aspire.
True friends of the Korean people will hope that the current crisis doesn’t culminate in greater bloodshed. Few nations have suffered so sorely in defending their national independence.

However, the current system is unsustainable and must, at some stage, give way to a more democratic expression of working people’s interests.

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