The leader of North Korea is one of the most paranoid people on the planet, but with good reason. Despite his slick propaganda machine, brutal dictator Kim Jong-un is hated by millions, and at least half of his own government ministers would stab him in the back in an instant if they thought they could get away with it.
That’s why it’s not too surprising to learn that North Korea experts estimate that Kim Jong-un has purged at least 70 rivals, including his uncle, the No. 2 man in the country, since he came to power less than four years ago. His father Kim Jong Il is known to have had hundreds of rivals executed.
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Related to this, according to CNN sources in South Korea, Kim Jong-un has recently “banished” another second in command from Pyongyang for “re-education.”
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told the Parliament in an intelligence on briefing Tuesday that Choe Ryong Hae had apparently sent to a “re-education” farm in the countryside in North Korea in early November, Shin Kyung-min, a lawmaker who attended the briefing, told CNN.
Reasons for banishment unknown
The reason for the banishment of Choe Ryong Hae is not clear, but the NIS speculated it might be related to differences of opinion with Kim, or perhaps because of the numerous problems in the construction of North Korea’s Baekdusan Power Plant, which was Choe’s responsibility.
North Korean experts had identified Choe as North Korea’s point person on China following an official meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Of note, Choe also made a surprise visit to South Korea in the fall of last year to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games.
Analysts highlight that speculation had been building over the fate of Choe for some weeks now when he was not named as a member of a funeral committee for a North Korean Army marshal who recently died.
Experts say North Korea’s Choe Ryong Hae could be reinstated
North Korea experts point out that it’s possible Choe disappearance may only be temporary as Choe has been purged and re-instated once before. They note there are several such farms across the country, and that hundreds of lower ranking officials are “re-educated” every year in North Korea.
“It’s not that serious,” Professor Andrei Lankov of Seoul’s Kookmin University commented in an interview. “If it’s serious he will be killed.”
Lankov continued to say that North Korea has used this kind of re-education for less serious crimes stretching back to the late 1950s. “As long as the person works hard and never forgets to proclaim loyalty to the government and the world’s greatest leader, they are usually recalled and often re-promoted to a high position,” he noted.
One example of a North Korean official with several trips to the “re-education” farm was Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who is known to have been banished at least three times and then re-instated. Taek did not survive his fourth fall from grace, however, as Pyongyang state media announced he had been executed in December 2013 for taking actions against the state.