Wednesday, February 9, 2011

North Korea triples public executions since Great Currency Obliteration

In late 2009, I predicted that the revaluation of the North Korean currency (they lopped off the last two zeroes) and especially the restriction on how much could be converted to the new money (a move meant to curb the underground markets that effectively wiped out the life savings of millions of people) could lead to enough disgruntlement that we would witness a sea change in how North Koreans see the Pyongyang regime.

In short, many would clearly see that, an endless loop of propaganda notwithstanding, the government was not on their side. Moreover, the resulting decimation of the markets would mean that for millions of people outside Pyongyang and the spheres of power, it would be far harder for them to secure the sustenance needed for survival. And that means that at some point in their grim calculus of how to respond to the regime, what I referred to as "the tipping point of death," doing nothing would become a deadlier option than doing something. This sea change in attitudes, I believe, will turn out to be a key factor in the eventual collapse of the DPRK.

Sadly, news today suggests that North Korean authorities, who were blindsided by the ensuing wrath of the people and sometimes violent public displays of anger that occurred in the wake of them wiping out the life savings of the citizenry, may have recognized the very thing I was talking about. Specifically, The Japan Times is reporting a tripling of public executions since the currency revaluation:
Public executions have more than tripled in North Korea since the dictatorship in late 2009 redenominated its currency and in the process sparked widespread public discontent, according to a recent report seen by The Japan Times.

According to the confidential South Korean government report obtained by Lee Young Hwa, an economics professor at Kansai University, 52 North Koreans were publicly executed between December 2009 and last November, compared with 16 reported executions between January and November 2009.
We were already aware that the supposed architects of the currency revaluation were executed, but the other public executions were also meant to quash any attempts by the populace to rise up about this life-or-death issue:
The report said the surge in executions was a direct result of the redenomination and was aimed at instilling fear to dampen increasing public discontent aimed at the dictatorship.

"The number of public executions began increasing in 2009, when the succession of power from Kim Jong Il to his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, became full-fledged," said Lee, a North Korea expert who also heads the organization Rescue the North Korean Refugees — Urgent Action Network (RENK).

"The report is a warning that North Korea's iron-fisted reign of terror will harden under Kim Jong Un," he said.

Crime categories that could be subject to the death penalty were increased from five to 21 in March 2008, and further categories were included following the redenomination, including "execution for illegal circulation of foreign currency," and "death by shooting for leaking information via cell phones," the report said.
I, of course, don't really buy the facile conclusion that all this is being orchestrated by or for Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-un, aka The Kim Who Wasn't There, but I do agree with the report on the purpose of these executions. The JT article also notes that Christians and others expressing opposition to the regime have also been executed.

And while one might see this as signs of a dark time that is getting bleaker, I hold out hope that the DPRK authorities seeing a need to do this is a direct result of the population's anger toward the regime starting to reach a boiling point. As usually, I'm cautiously (and pragmatically) optimistic.


  1. If you are getting fancy ideas from Egypt and Co.,....well, prepare to be disappointed.

  2. If you mean that we shouldn't expect from North Korea what has been going on in Egypt and earlier in Tunisia, I agree.

  3. You might want to catch last night's/this week's NCIS that featured a South Korean traitor spying for the North aboard a U.S Naval ship and feeding his information to a North Korean submarine off the east coast from Washington, D.C.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, John. I'll try to catch that at the website (it looks like they have full episodes).

    Sigh. I need a Slingbox hooked up to my mom's Fios.


Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.