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Sacking of spy agency chief likely to aggravate instability in N. Korea: think tank

All News 15:20 February 05, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's recent sacking of the chief of the country's spy agency is likely to aggravate the sense of instability among the North Korean elite class, a report by the state-run Institute for National Security said Sunday.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification said last week that State Security Minister Kim Won-hong was dismissed from the seat in mid-January over charges of abusing authority. The previously four-star general was also demoted to a one-star general, the ministry said.

It was latest case in the reign of terror that has marked the governance of Kim, who came to power in his early 30s after his father Kim Jong-il's sudden death in 2011.

Kim Won-hong (Yonhap file photo)

Issuing a report on the latest purge, senior researcher Kwak Gil-sub at the Seoul-based institute said "the instability under the Kim Jong-un regime is likely to escalate in the course of time."

The action taken against the former spy chief, who had been instrumental in executing Kim's reign of terror, is intended to solidify the leader's supremacy and similarly designed purges may further accelerate down the road, Kwak predicted.

"Kim Wong-hong's purge may appear to be temporarily helpful for Kim Jong-un's efforts to rein in the elite class, but in the long-term it will serve as a critical moment in instilling the notion that Kim Jong-un regards even his closest aides as disposable," the researcher said.

On the surface, the recent purge has been attributed to corruption, abuse of power and the defection of former North Korean diplomat in London Thae Yong-ho, but in fact it was the result of a power game among key government bodies and Kim's royalist groups, he also noted.

Following the purge, North Korea's elite class may try to look more allegiant to Kim, but behind the scenes, they will be pointing a finger at Kim, he added.


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