DPRK anti-corruption drive: purge, policy change, or both?

A little over a week ago, the North Korean government announced an anti-corruption campaign in two agencies: the United Front Department and the National Economic Cooperation Council

As I said then, these sorts of campaigns have nothing to do with making the bureaucracy more accountable or responsive to public demands, but are political maneuvers to prevent “rents” or funds from being channeled to uses that lie outside the leadership’s control (or some faction of the leadership).  In other words, they are regime enhancing (like a purge).

Today, the Daily NK offers a scenario whereby this anti-corruption drive might be a necessary precondition for a drastic policy change: 

The fact that the Guidance Department is involved in the current investigation may be a sign that Kim Jong Il is trying to rebuild the party so that he can change the focus of policy from the military to economic matters. Kim Jong Il has already created a militarily powerful country by acquiring nuclear weapons. Now he wishes to improve other areas.

Within the context of the anti-corruption campaign, today’s Daily NK does a wonderful job identifying the specific agencies involved in reorganizing the DPRK’s levers of power:

The Defense Security Command of the [Korean] People’s Army and the National Security Agency are also launching inspections, but these kinds of inspection are limited. A Defense Security Command investigation can inspect military organizations, local party organizations and individual cadres, but it cannot investigate party branches in the capital and the National Security Agency. At the same time, the National Security Agency’s investigators cannot access the party organizations in Pyongyang, the military and the Defense Security Command.

However, the Guidance Department’s inspection can examine every organization including party organizations in Pyongyang, the Defense Security Command, and the National Security Agency. [A Guidance Department investigation requires Kim Jong Il’s direct authorization. It is often said that if one is the target of such an investigation, one stands little chance of reprieve.]

There are only two known examples of a Guidance Department-led investigation in North Korean history. The first was the investigation of the National Security Agency in February, 1984. [...] The second case occurred in 1997 and was known as the Shimhwajo case, resulting in the hushed-up removal of many of Kim Il Sung’s close associates. This inspection was approved by Kim Jong Il and was operated by Jang Sung Taek, Kim’s brother-in-law and the First Vice-Director of the Guidance Department. Through the investigation, thousands of high officials who followed Kim Il Sung were punished, expelled, secretly executed, or sent to prison camps.

To read about another similar change in the balance of power in the DPRK, read the rest of the story here:
Inside the North Korean Shake-up
Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee
2/21/2008

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