Is North Korea a Military Junta?
On Thursday of last week (June 24, 2013), North Korea voiced rhetoric that has become all-too-familiar in recent months from new leader Kim Jong-un.
Calling the United States its “sworn enemy”, the supreme leader of the impoverished country of 24 million has vowed to retaliate against the U.S. for recent sanctions placed on his country by the United Nations. While experts are nearly certain that the DPRK don’t yet have the necessary technology to mount a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile for the U.S. mainland, they do have enough technology to produce several more nuclear bombs by 2016, with rocket technology to theoretically reach Hawaii as of now.
Much of the world waited with bated breath when the so-called Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il, finally succumbed to illness in the waning days of 2011, after having ruled the Hermit Kingdom for over 17 years. It was with hope that his successor and youngest of three sons, Kim Jong-un, would stray from the path of nuclear ambition that his father had so resolutely marched since 1994. That march had culminated in the 2006 nuclear detonation of a one-kiloton device, and the 2009 nuclear detonation of a two-kiloton bomb (For reference, the Hiroshima bomb of 1945 was 12 kilotons).
Not much news comes out of North Korea about the meanderings of internal politics, even though they are sure to exist. There was some noise in July of 2012 that there was resistance from older generals to Kim Jong-un’s rocket trip up the ranks, culminating in the replacement of top general Ri Yong-ho – who many believe was probably murdered afterward, although official news is that he’s under permanent house arrest – with Kim’s own favorite, Chief of General Staff Hyon Yong-chol. The most recent rhetoric may be Kim’s need to assert his power in the eyes of his army and people; or, it could be indicative of a much more grim reality – that a military junta is now in effect in the Hermit Kingdom, with Kim as a compliant figurehead.Continued on the next page