From the September-October 2015 issue of News & Letters
North Korea’s fast-maturing dictator, Kim Jong-un, 32, has eliminated another member of the ruling party elite, vice-premier Choe Yong-gon. This marks somewhere around 70 high level executions Kim has ordered since taking power from his late father in 2011.
It is alleged that Choe had expressed disagreement over forestry policies and shown poor work performance. These are the usual vague charges that accompany the elimination of such high level figures. It is more likely that Choe was eliminated for his connection to the North’s joint business ventures with South Korea, including the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
In December 2013 Kim had executed his uncle Jang Sung-thaek, architect of the Rason Special Economic Zone which allowed business investments by Russia and China, as well as being a center of the illegal meth trade. As in that case, Kim has likely acted to assure his own control over scarce economic resources.
Despite the Game of Thrones grisliness of some of his alleged crimes, like blasting a former defense minister to shards with an anti-aircraft gun, Kim is following out North Korea’s own version of state-capitalist logic.