Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
JoongAng Daily has a highly fascinating report about Kim Ok. Ms. Kim was featured in my posting about the ladies around General-Secretary Kim. According to JAD‘s sources in ROK intelligence, Ms. Kim is no longer employed in Kim Jong-il’s Personal Secretariat and no longer blowing out the candles in the General-Secretary’s boudoir during the wee hours. Kim Ok is reported to have married a KWP official and her profile diminished since the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly.
The JAD report also includes other information about Ms. Kim’s background. She is the daughter of Kim Hyo, a deputy director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department (a separate entity from the Financial Planning Department, headed by Pak Nam-gi). Kim Hyo was a member of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly representing electoral district # 271. Kim Ok’s brother is Kim Kyun, who is an associate dean at Kim Il-sung University and was given the title “Merited Scientist” this year. Kim Kyun was seen escorting General-Secretary Kim around KISU during a guidance tour in March of this year. JoongAng Daily‘s ROK sources believe that Kim Ok’s functions at the Personal Secretariat have been assumed by Kim Kyong-hui, General-Secretary Kim’s sister.
Kim Kyong-hui already had links into the Third Floor (which is linked to the Personal Secretariat) much of its inception being the product of the clever mind of her husband, Jang Song-thaek. Kim Kyong-hui also likely has personal social and familial ties to some Personal Secretariat employees, including her own late brother-in-law VMAR Jang Song-u who was political commissar of the Guard Command and then a military adviser to General-Secretary Kim. This is the first report where Kim Kyong-hui is observed as operating in the Personal Secretariat. This is somewhat unprecedented in the context of the Personal Secretariat: Kim Jong-il deliberately sequesters the Personal Secretariat from other North Korean elites and KWP directors and operatives. This latter group has all but the most superficial contact with the Personal Secretariat even though its senior officials have OGD and diplomatic titles.
If Kim Kyong-hui has undertaken some or all of Kim Ok’s previous responsibilities, then this places Mrs. Jang squarely in the daily management of the Third Floor. More interesting than that, Kim Kyong-hui is serving as General-Secretary Kim’s gatekeeper, managing (with her niece Kim Sol-song) his calendar, appearances and security. This positions her in a role of influence over the general policymaking in the DPRK–as the Personal Secretariat controls what paperwork and policy proposals and North Korean elites reach General-Secretary Kim’s scrutiny. Kim Kyong-hui is well-positioned to influence succession and power transfers, particularly if she has daily personal access to General-Secretary Kim. To a hereditary successor or collective regime, she can also transfer the significant pecuniary and personnel resources of the Personal Secretariat to the succeeding regime; the successor will have a ready-made apparatus to implement decisions.
More importantly, Kim Kyong-hui’s position could help the DPRK avoid any potential messy transition problems. She can communicate a transition, even a situation that portends to transition, to her husband who controls the DPRK’s internal security apparatus. This would allow them to assume management of the Guard Command and Military Security Command. With these two agencies–which are completely outside any other Party or Army control or reporting channels–in coordination with the State Security Department and Ministry of Public Security, any influential elite opposition to the succeeding regime can be quelled rather rapidly.
If this report is accurate, General-Secretary Kim has inextricably linked his fate with Mr. Jang and Kim Kyong-hui.