Trouble in the Nork paradise

The Independent:

North Korea's Kim Jong Il has purged some of his closest relatives, accusing them of trying to seize power, reports in Beijing and Seoul said.

The purge began some months ago when Kim Jong Il put his brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, under house arrest along with 80 other officials and their family members. Many have reportedly been sent to North Korea's Gulag in the largest purge in a decade.

Some diplomats believe the power struggles may be connected the pace and scope of economic reforms. Kim Jong Il is reportedly preparing to announce new changes to the political and economic system in late February when the country celebrates his birthday.

Kim Jong Il took over from his father 10 years ago and managed to hold on to power as the economy collapsed and an estimated three million perished from hunger and disease.

The regime is being supported largely with aid from China and South Korea as Kim has tried to trade his nuclear weapons programme with sweeping security guarantees from Washington.

But with the re-election of George W Bush, Kim Jong Il has little realistic chance of realising his hopes, and there are growing signs that even China is beginning to lose patience with him. Beijing has moved some 60,000 troops from the Shenyang garrison to the border in case it needs to intervene.

A trickle of reports coming out of North Korea paint a picture of a regime in its dying days, with leading members of the ruling family at each other's throats.


Chinese sources also claim a growing flight of senior and middle-ranking officials and generals, with one report alleging as many as 130 generals have sought refuge in China.

How many Generals remain in North Korea? This report certainly suggest that senior military leadership does not have much confidence in the current Nork government.


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