Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Concerns about Seoul’s influence causes purge in North Korea

The long absence of some senior North Korean officials from public functions, after participating in inter-Korean affairs for the past decade, touched off speculation that there has been a purge, aimed at insulating the North against the growing influence of the South.

Yonhap reported that North Korea's internal surveillance conducted extensive investigations into irregularities among its officials and agencies involved in economic cooperation and trade with South Korea. The North Korean leadership seems to have concluded that the country can survive without the dollars it earned through the Mount Geumgang and Gaeseong projects.

It is likely that Kim has sacked all of the aides who helped him through the period of vigorous inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges, which provided a variety of cooperation programs between the two Koreas.

Most notable is the case of Choe Sung-chol who Pyongyang's top representative in South-North contacts, who it appears was executed last year on charges of corruption. Other senior North Korean officials who were active in South-North dialogue also disappeared recently. They included Jong Un-op, president of the National Economic Cooperation Committee, and Kwon Ho-gyong, a cabinet secretary for inter-Korean dialogue.

The humanitarian aid to the North in all its various forms resulted not only in the North Koreans' dependence on the food, fertilizer and clothes from the South but their attachment to the songs and dramas from its free society. Admiration for the affluence in the South grew, leading to an increase in refugees seeking to go to South Korea via China.

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