I mentioned this story in the Green Room earlier today, but the whole thing is so bizarre and gruesome, and certainly has enough possible implications for the future of North Korea, that I think it warrants a bigger slot.
Late Thursday night, reports started to emerge that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un had suddenly had his mentor/adviser/uncle-by-marriage and at least several of his aides executed, with the state’s official media deeming him “despicable human scum” who was “worse than a dog” and “a traitor for all ages.” The NYT has more:
Perhaps one of the most intriguing details in North Korea’s announcement of the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle and presumed mentor of the leader Kim Jong-un, was what its state-run news media reported that Mr. Jang said while confessing to plotting to overthrow Mr. Kim’s government.
“I was going to stage the coup by using army officers who had close ties with me or by mobilizing armed forces under the control of my confidants,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency on Friday quoted Mr. Jang as having said on Thursday during his court-martial. “I thought the army might join in the coup if the living of the people and service personnel further deteriorate in the future.”
It could not be independently confirmed whether Mr. Jang, long considered a champion of a Chinese-style economic overhaul in North Korea, actually made such a statement or whether the government made up the assertion to justify his execution. But the long list of crimes that Mr. Jang and his followers were accused of having committed was tantamount to a highly unusual admission of what analysts said could be a serious and bloody power struggle over economic and other policies inside the impoverished but nuclear-armed country.
What exactly is going on here? “Press freedom” isn’t really a thing in North Korea, so pinning down the background information here is a tough task. Is Kim losing his grip on power, and desperately trying to demonstrate and consolidate it? Is he trying to shake off the old-school senior leadership in his cabinet and prove himself? Was this merely the end result of a sordid family drama over some crazy love triangle?
Whatever the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind it all, we can at least rest assured that Dennis Rodman’s next date with his BFF is still on. Evidently, not even the possible shakeup of the NorK’s authoritarian political structure is enough to faze this bromance made in hell — and really, why would it? If mass crimes against humanity and a couple of nuclear bomb threats here and there weren’t enough to do the trick, I don’t know why a few wanton political executions would change things, either. Via Politico:
Dennis Rodman plans to travel to North Korea next week to train its basketball team, a trip unaffected by the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle. …
Rodman considers Kim a close friend and has a long-scheduled trip that starts Monday to train the national team. Rodman also has organized an exhibition game in January in Pyongyang to celebrate Kim’s birthday. …
“Yes, I’m going to North Korea to train the basketball team,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “I’m going to bring American players over there. Yes I am. I’m going to be the most famous person in the world when you see American people holding hands and hoping the doors can be opened. If they can. If they can. If they can. I’m going. I’m going back for his birthday. Special.”