Monday, November 22, 2004


from North Korea include a public Japanese acknowledgment of the possibility of regime change and tales of high-level military defections (see NYT article here; free registration required).
After weeks of reports from North Korea of defecting generals, antigovernment posters and the disappearance of portraits of the country's ruler, the leader of Japan's governing party warned Sunday of the prospects of "regime change" in North Korea.

In Seoul, an editor at Monthly Chosun, a magazine that closely follows North Korean affairs, said in an interview that when he was in northern China earlier this year, Chinese officials showed him North Korean wanted posters for generals who had managed to reach China with their families. The editor, who asked not to be identified, estimated that in recent years, 130 North Korean generals had defected to China, about 10 percent of the military elite.

Of this group, the most significant, he said, are four who have been integrated into active duty with the Chinese military in the Shenyang district, along the Korean border.

Last May, Lt. Gen. O Se Ok, a rising member of the military elite, left the North Korean port of Chongjin by boat, met a Japanese boat in the Sea of Japan and eventually made his way to the United States, according to NHK television of Japan and Kazuhiro Araki, a professor of Korean politics at Takushoku University in Japan. The general's 73-year-old father, O Kuk Ryol, ranked second on the Central Military Commission at the time, after Kim Jong Il.
Some see a potential China-instigated coup in the works:
Now, the South Korean editor speculated, China may be forming a fallback plan should Kim Jong Il prove incapable of reforming or holding on to power. "The scenario the Chinese are looking into is to make a buffer regime through such North Korean general defectors,"
But, the DPRK still officially denies anything out of the ordinary is going on:
Li Sang Su, an official with the Korea News Service, which distributes reports of the North Korean news agency in Japan, said the portrait change was merely a routine updating of images.

"They change the portraits after some years to new ones because the portraits get worn and the person gets older," he said.

On Friday, China's official New China News Agency carried an interview with a North Korean Foreign Ministry official, Ri Gyong Son, who attributed reports about the disappearing portraits to the United States and its allies who "want to overthrow" Mr. Kim.

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