Article | The State Security Department is in a Risky Situation

Editorial by NKSC President Kang Cheol Hwan

Recently, the State Security Department (SSD) of the North Korean government has become a subject of power struggle. The purported reason for the execution of KIM Won Hong, former Minister of SSD, has been stated as command disobedience. However, the following presents additional circumstances underlying the purging.

The SSD has been established by Kim Jong Il himself and has been directly responsible for sustaining the regime.  No one except the Kim family and some privileged parties of the party organization were able to avoid the scrutiny of the SSD. When the North Korean regime ruthlessly purged those who were stumbling blocks to the regime, the SSD was always present. The fact that Kim Jong Il himself has also served as the deputy director directly demonstrates the powerful status of the SSD, which has become more concentrated in power.

Just before the death of Kim Jong-il, vice-chairman WOO Dong Chuk was on the shortlist for candidates to be the minister of SSD. Woo had been working for the SSD for more than 40 years and was a person who has been trusted by Kim Jong-il’s close aides. However, WOO suffered acute cerebral hemorrhage, and thus, So KIM Won Hong, who was not anywhere in the spotlight, took the head position at SSD.

Kim Won Jong is an “intelligence man” who had been a member of the military, including the training department of the 91st training camp in Pyongyang. As a person with considerable skills and abilities, it is true that he was the right person to organize matters at the start of Kim Jung Un’s regime.  However, in order to prolong his power, Kim Won Hong began to bring important SSD individuals closer to him to private the organization.  Kim won the trust of Kim Jung Un by leading the purging of Jang Sung-taek, despite the opposition from many high executives to earn the trust of Kim Jong Un. After this, Kim Jung Un and his core members tried to eliminate Kim Won Hong, but he was careful enough that he was able to maintain long-term power.

Matters changed last December during a scandal involving the Vice Chairman of a labor group in Ryanggang Province that occurred when Kim Jong Eun and his party visited Hyesan, Ryanggang province.  During this process, Kim Jong Un and his group decided to plot to eliminate Kim Won Hong. In the end, it was the start of this incident where Kim Won Hong allegedly failed to implement Kim Jong Un’s instructions to brutally torture a party executive officer and oversee the process.

If such is the case, it’s questionable why the regime has been silent on executions of eleven party executives and deputies and various other executions.  In the end, Kim Won Hong, who was adamant to survive in the regime through merciless killings, was trying to build an internal power network, but ended up being ruthlessly tortured by the Kim Jung Un forces.

As the SSD’s key deputies have all been executed, the agency seems to have been hit hard.  As much as the loyalty to Kim Jong Un was rewarded with ruthless killings, this seems to be the first signal that the Kim Jong Un system is cracking and near the end. Killing families, including that of Jang Sung Taek, and killing high-ranking officers with machine guns may seem like a short-term tactic to strengthen a regime, but to target the SSD is to shake the pillars that are sustaining the oppressive regime.

It is also a signal that Kim Jong Un and his aides are in danger of becoming an even greater power as they have targeted and started to eliminate the SSD.  SSD executive and lower level employees have a learned a key lesson that ultimate loyalty to Kim Jong Un could end up in execution.  So, in order to protect the system, it is inevitable for them repress the people and to be reluctant to do the things that Kim Jong Un would look negatively on.

As Kim Won Hong and his followers are ruthlessly purged, the possibility of a serious power leakage in North Korea is increasing, and instability of the country is expected to become even greater.

NKSC USArticle | The State Security Department is in a Risky Situation