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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Execution by firing squad: echo of internal strife?

Experts not sure about North Korean pop singer’s death
4 September, 2013 - 17:18
Photo from the website RFI.FR

The latest from South Korea’s major periodical, The Chosun Ilbo, reads that Hyon Song-wol, the lead singer with North Korea’s Pochonbo Electronic Orchestra, ex-girlfriend of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, was among “a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad on August 20,” and that they were “arrested on August 17 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later. The victims of the atrocity were members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians, and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band. They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes have apparently gone on sale in China as well. A source said some allegedly had Bibles in their possession, and all were treated as political dissidents.”

Hyon Song-wol’s official-propaganda-approved hits include “An Excellent Horse-Like Lady,” “I Love Pyongyang,” and “Footsteps of Soldiers.”

South Korean unconfirmed intelligence sources read that Hyon Song-wol became Kim Jong-un’s lover some ten years ago, and that Kim Jong-un’s ruling father, Kim Jong-il, took a dim view of the affair. He sent Kim Jong-un to study in Switzerland and made the girl marry a North Korean Army officer (one of his Secret Service officers, according to other sources). Hyon vanished from public view until early July 2012, when North Korea’s official television company showed a young lady that looked very much like Hyon sitting with the young North Korean leader during a concert. Several weeks later, the government-run television company explained that it was Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, who had performed with the same rock band as Hyon Song-wol.

Some media reports assume that Ri Sol-ju, the official wife of Kim Jong-un, the Leader of the Party and people, Commander in Chief of the Korean People’s Army, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, etc., etc., had Hyon killed out of jealousy. This assumption is called in question.

For the ruler of North Korea, ordering several pop singers executed would be a minor affair – as it would be for any dictator. But allowing the media to turn a love affair into a major political event would be too much even for a communist dictator.

There are many questionable aspects to the case. Apart from the porno tapes, the alleged presence of copies of the Holy Bible among those arrested makes one wonder. North Korea numbers 1.5-2 percent Christians, most of them being severely persecuted. There are four temples functioning. These are visited by infrequent Christian tourists and local Christians, Juche citizens who are selected, carefully checked by the North Korean secret police and approved by the Party, according to Open Doors, Switzerland. Interestingly, the everlasting North Korean leader, Kim Il-sung, had to do with Christianity. His father, a Protestant college graduate, was a noted Christian activist. His mother’s father was a reputed Protestant pastor. As a young boy, Kim Il-sung went to church on a regular basis.

Even though the constitution of North Korea guarantees freedom of conscience, each Christian adherent is viewed as an enemy, as part of the fifth column of American imperialism. Over 70,000 local Christians are inmates of labor camps where shooting down an inmate is like swatting a fly.

Singers and musicians, especially members of an officially approved rock band, are kept under round-the-clock surveillance by the secret police, so having copies of the Bible would look unreasonable, to put it mildly. The whole case smacks of politics, of a struggle in progress on the upper North Korean echelons.

The quote from the conservative South Korean periodical, The Chosun Ilbo, at the beginning of this feature, is a sequel to several other sensational stories about North Korea, later to be retracted or left as stories from unconfirmed sources. It looks as though this periodical is using Pyongyang sources that were created to supply this kind of information, to serve certain purposes. This makes one think twice before using this data.

Konstantin Asmolov, chief research fellow with the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far East, told www.regnum.ru that The Chosun Ilbo’s story contained “incredible details [of the murder], that family members were forced to watch as the victims were being slaughtered, that then others were executed, and still others sent to the camps… Such a detailed account could have been made only by an eyewitness, by a person who could then travel to China and share his evidence with a conservative South Korean newspaper.” In other words, this newspaper story doesn’t look very convincing.

North Korea has embarked on a process of cautious reforms. The CC of the Worker’s Party has adopted a decree allowing the industrial enterprises to be more independent [of party controlling authorities] in their activities. The North Korean government appears to have embarked on a path different from China’s. It seems to prefer the Cuban and Vietnamese experiences.

North Korea’s ruling conservatives apparently don’t like such changes, so much so that Kim Jong-un was forced to replace the supreme military command. It is hard to tell how his replacements have improved his standing, but the fact remains that Pyongyang’s recent promise to hit Seoul and US military bases in the Pacific and in Tokyo with its missiles sounded rather menacing.

It has transpired that North Korea’s nuclear missile blackmail is fake, and that no one believes that this country will declare war on South Korea in the predictable future.

First, South Korean companies started operating in the Kaesong Industrial Region, considering that its closure had been a heavy blow to the South Korean economy, in terms of hard currency revenues.

Family reunions have been resumed, although Pyongyang understands this project as official arrangements made for family members on both sides of the peninsula to meet. These family reunions are scheduled to coincide with the traditional Korean harvest festival, Chuseok, celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Everyone knows how people in North Korea will be selected for these reunions, that there will be secret police agents among them. Even so, such reunions serve to damage North Korean [communist] propaganda, considering that people will see the glaring difference between the living standards.

The conservatives in the North Korean leadership loath any changes and are making every effort to prevent them from happening. A front-page story about the alleged murder of a pop singer and ex-lover of the head of state can only play into their hand, considering that Kim Jong-un’s international image leaves much to be desired.

North Korea’s economy is getting from bad to worse, and there is an increasing resistance to Kim Jong-un on the upper echelons of power. Other image-hurting media reports are likely to appear, simply because this is a well-trodden path of all dictatorships, ending up with economic collapse – although the outcome of political events in North Korea remains anyone’s guess.