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Regression of North Korea after Jang뭩 purge
DECEMBER 18, 2013 03:23  
The North Korean National Security Agency sentenced Jang Song Thaek, the vice chairman of National Defense Committee, to death in a special military trial last Thursday and immediately carried out the sentence. The North Korean Central News Agency broadcast that Jang 뱖as the worst-ever traitor who had viciously conspired (to overthrow the nation) by mobilizing the most cunning and dirty ways and means for a long time. Why did the Kim Jong Un regime loathe Jang this much? Why did Pyongyang not just kill him but also completely damaged his reputation by propagating him as the worst enemy of the North Korean people?

Jang is not just a vice chairman of the National Defense Committee and chief of the central administrative department of the Workers Party, but also an uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Since the death of the former leader, Kim Jong Il, on Dec. 17, 2011, Jang had helped Kim뭩 accession to power and closely aided the young leader. There must have been no way for Jang to face such a dreadful fate unless Kim had been fit to be tied.

The cause of the recent purge is not simple. The ruling released by North Korea tells that Jang made the leader feel that he was 밺isregarded when it comes to the projects Jang was leading, such as the economic cooperation with China and the development of Nason Special Economic Zone. Such an attitude is against normal practices of North Korea where power is concentrated on only one leader. In fact, such actions by Jang were an attempt to drive North Korea into the path of reform and openness like China that Pyongyang had resisted for a long time, and to revise the closure and military-first policy that Kim뭩 family had pursued for a long time.

Jang and his followers pushed for economic cooperation with foreign countries under difficult domestic circumstances. Over the last two years, Jang led the construction of the special economic zone and attracted investments from Asian countries. People predicted that such moves would bring positive change to the North Korean economy. It is hard to predict how the communist regime will deal with issues of economic cooperation with foreign countries and reform its old economic system after Jang뭩 death.

The purge revealed that the North Korean leadership was extremely suspicious of the economic cooperation with China, led by Jang. According to the ruling, Jang sold precious natural resources such as coals at a giveaway price and the regime was heavily indebted in the process because many of his followers were scammed by brokers. To resolve this problem, he lent the lands of Nason to a foreign country for 50 years. These actions were actually taken to raise funds necessary to revive the regime뭩 struggling economy. However, they were turned into criminal charges in the trial.

With the purge of Jang, the North뭩 efforts to open its economy to China will weaken significantly. Obviously, the trade between China and North Korea will decrease next year. If North Korea cannot exchange its natural resources with cash and products from China, its economy will further aggravate.

In August 2011, Jang headed a large delegation to Beijing. Though he was not a state leader, China exceptionally allowed him to stay in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse State Guesthouse. In addition, Hu Jintao, then-president of China, and Wen Jiabao, then- prime minister of China, came out to welcome him. When Jang was supervising the China-North Korea relations, China obtained a right to build three ports in Nason and use them for 50 years. Whether the ruling is true or not, China has become an accomplice of Jang.

The third nuclear test conducted in February displeased Chinese government and President Xi Jinping. If North Korea lets down people뭩 last hope for its reform after the purge, Beijing will have to reconsider its North Korea policy. This may have negative impact on the regime in a long-term perspective. We need to continuously take a close look at the situation in North Korea.

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