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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 231 (October 11, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

Kim Jong-un Instructs Security Ministry to Ferret Out 'Impure Hostile Elements'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has issued a strong order to the State Security Ministry (SSM) to ferret out "impure hostile elements," heralding a massive police execution of anti-North Korean activists.

   During a visit to the ministry, the state's secret police, Kim "underscored the need to intensify the struggle to decisively foil the ideological and cultural poisoning and psychological warfare of the enemies, while following their moves with vigilance, and make sustained energetic endeavors to put the work for state security on an ultra-modern and IT basis," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Oct. 6.

   "The Ministry of State Security has a very important duty to perform to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation," he noted, calling on the security force to be fully aware of their heavy yet honorable combat mission, the KCNA quoted the North Korean leader as saying.

   Kim continued that the security force should "wage a fierce struggle against the enemies on the invisible front" as they always have and "make a revolution, remaining loyal to the party to the last in any storm and stress." To this end, they should cherish unshakable faith like pure gold remaining unburned even in flames, Kim added.
The young leader had a photo session with the commanding officers of the ministry in front of the statue of Kim Jong-il, expressing conviction that all its security personnel would fulfill their honorable mission on the road to decisively foiling the moves of those trying to stifle the DPRK by displaying a do-or-die spirit and unmatched courage.

   He was accompanied by Vice Marshal of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA.

   The SSM, a core intelligence institution in the North, had seen its function weakened, along with the People's Security Ministry (PSM), which is in charge of the police, after the North experienced its worst economic situation for some years starting in 1995. The situation changed when Kim Jong-un came to power.

   With Kim's direction it is expected that the North Korean society will be ruled under strong police power for the time being.

   Watchers in Seoul say North Korea's toughening rule by police power is designed to control its internal society before pursuing economic reforms in earnest.

   A source in Seoul who is well versed in North Korean affairs said Kim Jong-un's move to strengthen control with security forces is an attempt to control the society and to block possible side effects that may accompany economic reforms.

   North Korean leadership is concerned about the expansion of people's distrust and antagonism against the socialist system due to the expansion of exchanges with the outside world as a result of economic reforms.

   The source said the North Korean authorities are moving to reinforce the control of society under the judgment that its economic reforms may cause the collapse of its system amid stalled relations with the United States and South Korea.

   "North Korea will likely prepare economic reforms amid strong control of society for the time being," the source opined.

   The North Korean leadership has taken moves to encourage the SSM and the PSM. Kim allowed the SSM to be the first among state agencies to erect a statue of his father, late leader Kim Jong-il. The People's Security University was renamed after the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

   North Korean watchers say it is the biggest honor for the security university which educates would-be police officers to be named Kim Jong-il People's Security University.

   A South Korean government official said it is very natural for Kim Jong-un to strengthen rule by secret police at the early stage of his regime.

   Meanwhile, there are signs recently showing North Korea's control of society is loosening, making the North Korean leadership feel uneasy.

   One of the signs is the incessant defection of North Korean soldiers to the South. Three North Korean soldiers have crossed the heavily guarded border to defect to South in recent weeks.

   Besides the latest defection of a North Korean soldier to South Korea on Oct. 6, two more soldiers from the socialist nation made their way across the heavily armed border this year, a senior military source said on Oct. 8.

   Just four days before an 18-year-old soldier defected after shooting his platoon and squad leaders to death, another North Korean soldier was spotted by South Korean soldiers near a guard post on the eastern front on Oct. 2, the source said, asking for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

   In addition, a third North Korea soldier crossed the land border into the South on Aug. 17, waving a white flag, an international symbol of capitulation, officials said.

   It was unclear why the earlier two defections were not made public when they happened, but the three defections this year suggest degenerating discipline among North Korean troops. Defection across the land border is rare.

   "It seems that slack discipline among North Korean soldiers has reached a serious level lately, judging from their defection routes and confessions," the official said.

   The young soldier who said he killed his platoon and squad leaders to flee to the South is under questioning by authorities, while related agencies are investigating how another soldier could pass through the heavily fortified frontier on Oct. 2, according to officials.

   It is widely known that the North selects its front-line soldiers from those with good family backgrounds and they pass tough screening because of concerns they may flee to the South.

   The defection by North Korean soldiers sparked speculation about lax security in the frontier units after a North Korean civilian was caught last month on the border island of Gyodong.

   The 28-year-old man confessed he passed through several check points from South Phyongan Province while floating to the western island holding onto a log that was swept up in a flood spawned by typhoons, according to officials.

   On the same day the soldier shot his superiors and defected, Pyongyang's state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un urged vigilance from the security ministry.

   "After Kim Jong-un took power, military supplies have decreased and beatings and physical abuse have become an issue of concern," an intelligence source said, asking anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. "There are many complaints as tough orders were delivered to combat units, especially after the top military chief was replaced."

   Kim became the head of the communist state after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December and took the country's top rank of marshal in July. The promotion came days after Kim sacked veteran Army chief Ri Yong-ho to secure his power as the leader of the impoverished nation's 1.2 million-strong armed forces.

   Hundreds of North Koreans flee each year across its northern border with China and most make their way to South Korea, with more than 24,000 having found refuge in the South. Most cite economic hardship and political persecution as their main reasons for leaving home.