Thursday, July 8, 2010

A pox on Pak's house

In the past, I reported on Pak Nam-ki [박남기], the North Korean official responsible for the disastrous currency reform implemented last year, which I called the Great Currency Obliteration of 2009 and predicted could be a major factor in the downfall of the Pyongyang regime.

When Pyongyang finally realized that the level of disgruntlement over this cynical move to tighten their grip over privately run markets (which had become a necessary means to feed the people) was leading to public displays of anger and unrest, they decided to sack Pak Nam-ki, the supposed architect of the move. Then we got word that this man, possibly a scapegoat, had been executed (the kind of thing that makes this kind of thing not so funny).

So it should come as no surprise, I suppose, given the DPRK's propensity for eliminating inconvenient people or scapegoats — particularly when their supposed misstep does something as egregious as hold up the coronation of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong-un — and locking up entire families of wrongdoers, that Mr Pak's relatives have also been imprisoned.

From AP, via WaPo:
North Korea sent nearly three dozen relatives of former economic officials to a prison camp over the country's botched currency reform, a South Korean aid group said Tuesday.

North Korea's Ministry of State Security last month sent 34 relatives of former economic official Pak Nam Gi and others to a prison camp on the outskirts of the northern city of Hoeryong, Seoul-based Good Friends said on its website.

The communist North redenominated its currency late last year to fight inflation and reassert control over its burgeoning market economy. The measure, however, reportedly sparked unrest as it left many North Koreans stuck with piles of worthless bills.

Pak spearheaded the reform as the former finance and planning department chief of the ruling Workers' Party. He and an unidentified senior official were reportedly executed by a firing squad at a Pyongyang stadium in March as punishment for the policy failure.

On June 14, the relatives of Pak and other officials were collected and forcibly loaded into a wagon before being sent to the prison camp, the organization reported, citing an unidentified official at the North's security ministry.

The authorities transported the relatives in the middle of night in part to keep it a secret from the rest of the world to avoid international criticism, the official was quoted as saying.
I wonder what effect this kind of thing would have on the ruling elite, especially as it begins to fracture between camps beholden to Kim Jong-il's son and those that no longer want to participate in a leadership charade where they are at the mercy of the new figurehead and his whim.

And in some future era when the two Koreas are again one, I wonder if we will feel the lingering effects of such arbitrary punishments. For it will have been hammered into North Koreans' heads over and over and over again exactly what happens to any nail that sticks out.

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