Showing posts with label North Korean Leader. Show all posts
Showing posts with label North Korean Leader. Show all posts

April 25, 2020

Where is The Rocket Man? U.S. is Sending Planes to Try to Find Him!


By David Gilbert

No one knows if Kim Jong Un is “brain dead,” “gravely ill,” or just recuperating from surgery at his family’s summer retreat in Wonsan.
Now the U.S. appears to be trying to get some more information by flying surveillance planes over the secretive kingdom.
Since Monday, when reports first claimed that Kim was struggling to recover from heart surgery conducted on April 12, the U.S. Air Force has conducted multiple flights over the Korean Peninsula every day. 
The U.S. surveillance flights were first spotted by the aviation tracking Twitter account Aircraft Spots, which tracked the flights as they passed over Seoul. 
These flights are not unusual for the U.S. Air Force, but what is unusual is that the flights have been tracked.
Experts told the South Korean news agency Yonhap that it might have let some of them be spotted ”intentionally,” to pressure the North into revealing what is going on in the country.
The U.S. surveillance flights ramped up earlier this month following a North Korean missile test on April 14. Kim typically oversees such tests, but state media has yet to publish any official images or a report on the launch. 
On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. was as much in the dark as everyone else when it comes to Kim’s current health status.
He said that although there were “very serious medical reports, nobody has confirmed” them so far.
“These are reports that came out and we don't know," Trump added. "I just have to say to Kim Jong Un, good luck. I've had a very good relationship with him. I can only say this, I wish him well.”
The reports that Kim had undergone surgery and was struggling to recover first emerged in a website run by North Korean defectors. U.S. media, citing U.S. intelligence sources then claimed Kim was “gravely ill” and “brain dead” — though they subsequently walked back much of that reporting. 
South Korean intelligence sources have dismissed the reports, saying there is no evidence of unusual activity in North Korea. Chinese intelligence sources speaking to Reuters agreed with this assessment. 
On Thursday, South Korea’s Channel A TV station ran a story, citing U.S. intelligence sources, saying that Kim was in the coastal city of Wonsan and had traveled there last week after several people close to him had contracted the coronavirus.
North Korea is one of the only countries on the planet to report no official cases of coronavirus — though experts are highly skeptical of this claim

April 22, 2020

It Looks Like The "Rocket Man" Had a Heart Attack

 What a "joy!" one of rockets to carry nukes made it into the sea of Japan. The man is a  heavy
smoker and a rabiously red meat eater.
The world is scrambling to figure out whether a report claiming North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “gravely ill” after heart surgery is true.
There was fevered speculation among U.S. media outlets late on Wednesday, that Kis a heavy smoker and a tremendous red meat eaterim was “gravely ill” or “brain dead” after the surgery but those claims have since been toned down after both Chinese and South Korean intelligence officials said there was no evidence to back them up. The North Korean regime is typically highly secretive, but at a time when all borders are closed due to fears of importing coronavirus, there is even less information coming out of the country.

This is not the first time Kim’s health has been the cause of speculation. In 2014 he disappeared for 40 days sparking rumors he had been ousted in coup, only to reappear holding a cane.
“It is doubtful that we can have reliable intelligence on the top leader’s health situation from the most secretive country in the world,” Baohui Zhang, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, told VICE News. “There have been many rumors about North Korea’s elite politics and they later turned out to be false.”
I would not eat that candy dough, it probably has his uncles' brain remains, You know the one he had killed with a Cannon, I guess he could not find a rifle and the squad to do the job.

 What do we know?
The first report that Kim had undergone heart surgery came on Monday from NK Daily, a website run by North Korean defectors. An anonymous source told the outlet that Kim had undergone heart surgery on April 12, at the Hyangsan Medical Center, a dedicated hospital used only by the Kim family located north of the capital Pyongyang.
The report was picked up by news agencies early on Tuesday but without additional confirmation. 
Then the story took a sensational turn when CNN reported, based on information from anonymous U.S. intelligence sources, that Kim was in “grave danger.” The report subsequently changed to say U.S. intelligence officials were monitoring reports that Kim was gravely ill. NBC went further by tweeting that Kim was “brain dead.” The network quickly deleted the tweet, saying the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.” A similar claim was being shared widely in South Korea over the weekend.
Later on Tuesday, South Korea and Chinese intelligence sources appeared to pour cold water on the speculation, claiming that there were no signs that Kim was in danger — though neither side denied that the North Korean leader had undergone heart surgery.

When was Kim last seen in public?

Kim was last seen on April 11, when he presided over a meeting of the ruling party Politburo, ahead of a session of the country’s rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly the next day. Kim did not attend the SPA session on April 12, but that was expected as he is not a deputy anymore.
On April 14 the country conducted cruise missile tests. Kim would typically oversee such tests but, a week later, there are still no official pictures or state media reports about the launch.
Rumors about Kim’s whereabouts really picked up on April 15 when he was absent from the celebrations to mark the country’s most important holiday, the birthday of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder. State media failed to report whether Kim attended the ceremony at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. 
But on Monday, North Korea’s state-run news agency reported that Kim had sent “a congratulatory message to Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez, president of the Republic of Cuba.”

 What now?
With the borders closed and less information than ever getting out of the country, everyone from journalists to national security officials and North Korea analysts are now trying to find ways to establish what the situation really is.
“We have no information to confirm regarding rumors about Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health issue that have been reported by some media outlets. Also, no unusual developments have been detected inside North Korea,” a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office said in the statement.
South Korean officials told AP they believe Kim is staying at an unspecified location outside of Pyongyang with some of his close confidants adding that Kim appeared to be conducting state affairs as normal and there weren’t any unusual movements or emergency reactions from the North’s ruling party, military, or cabinet.
An official with the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, the main Chinese body dealing with Pyongyang told Reutersthey believe Kim is not critically ill.
The White House said it was aware of the reports about Kim’s health being precarious before they appeared in the media, but would not say where the information came from. An official told AP the U.S. had information that Kim may have undergone surgery and that complications may have rendered him “incapacitated or worse.”
Inside North Korea on Tuesday schools reopened after being closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and one source in Pyongyang told NK News that there “nothing unusual for the time being.”
 However, it’s worth noting that the North Korean public would typically be shielded from any information about Kim’s health.

Who takes his place?

If anything were to happen to Kim, one of the problems facing the country is that there is no clear successor in place. 
Kim was groomed from a young age by his father Kim Jong Il to lead the country, but because Kim has no adult children of his own — he reportedly has a 7-year-old daughter — it would likely be Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who would be first in line to take control.
She has become her brother’s closest confidant and her position within the ruling Workers’ Party has become more important in recent months. 
Last month, she made her first public statement, condemning the South as a “frightened dog barking” before publicly praising President Donald Trump for sending Kim a letter pledging support in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“If Kim is seriously ill or his mortality is being seen as probable, his sister is likely to want to be the successor,” Steve Tsang, director of London's SOAS China Institute, told VICE News. “As she is not an anointed successor already groomed and thus in a good place to assert leadership if Kim Jong Un should die, [it] remains to be seen if she will be embraced by the rest of the establishment.”

September 25, 2016

“South Korea has elite troops on standby ready to assassinate Kim Jong Un"

US B1-B bombers fly over Next to the border on South Korea’s air space

“South Korea has elite troops on standby ready to assassinate Kim Jong Un

*The statements below have been extracted from the threats of N.Korea’s Kim Jong and responses from the South and the US commencing with Saturday night’s statement from the South which seems they have been preparing to bring this one man show to a permanent midnight.  For reasons similar to other despots that don’t think much about themselves and want to prove something to the world even if it take the destruction of some of it, he has brought the level of tensions to the highest short of a nuclear attack, kim is been relentless on that. Now the South left no room for misunderstandings: We are ready standing by (today not in a year from now) to take care of this guy and his closest henchman. The South understands this language this man will understand. They bring the danger not to innocent soldiers, civilians and city he probably cares nothing about, the danger comes to his own body which he seems to take care very well. His body and his power.
There is an ex CIA agent who said once on CBSN I would bring to war in Syria to Assad’s person. Will destroy his limo’s helios and what ever makes him feel secure. Then watch what he does and how tough he is going to be in the field. It’s early on this game of Chicken in the Korea Peninsula but may be the President of the US could learn something from our ally in South Korea.

 South Korea has elite troops on standby ready to assassinate Kim Jong Un if the country feels threatened by North Korean nuclear weapons, the country's defense minister revealed this week.

Asked in parliament Wednesday if there was a special forces unit already assembled that could eliminate North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, Han Min-koo said: "Yes, we do have such a plan. "
"South Korea has a general idea and plan to use precision missile capabilities to target the enemy's facilities in major areas as well as eliminating the enemy's leadership," he added.
Kim Jong Un inspects Farm No. 1116 in an undisclosed location in a photo released September 13, 2016.

It has long been suspected that such a plan was in place but the minister's candid answer surprised some.
"A president would want to have the option," says Daniel Pinkston of Troy University. "... Not presenting that to the president, not training for it and having that capability would be a mistake."
March 2016: Following the imposition of strict U.N. sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country’s “nuclear warheads need to be ready for use at any time," the North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.

January 2016: North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a thermonuclear weapon, justifying its right to have an H-bomb on the grounds of "self defense."
August 2015: As forces from the U.S. and South Korea took part in joint military drills. North Korea’s state media referred to the exercises, which started on August 17, as "madcap" and issued a stern warning to America: "If the U.S. ignites a war in the end, far from drawing a lesson taught by its bitter defeat in the history, the DPRK will bring an irrevocable disaster and disgrace to it."

 On August 23, as North Korean negotiators were meeting with their South Korean counterparts over current tensions, a KCTV presenter appeared on air repeating North Korea ambitions to destroy the warmongering South Korean puppet military. 
August 2015: On August 23, as North Korean negotiators were meeting with their South Korean counterparts over current tensions, a KCTV presenter appeared on air repeating North Korea's ambitions to "destroy the warmongering South Korean puppet military."
December 2014: The FBI said it suspected North Korea was behind a hack of Sony Entertainment, which led executives to initially cancel the theatrical release of "The Interview." The film was a comedy about an American television personality who the CIA asks to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea threatened "merciless" action against the U.S. if the film was released, accusing the U.S. of retaliating for the hack by shutting down North Korea's Internet access. North Korea's National Defense Commission also called U.S. President Barack Obama “reckless" and a "monkey."

 North Korea threatens to hit the White House and Pentagon with nuclear weapons. 
July 2014: North Korea threatens to hit the White House and Pentagon with nuclear weapons. American "imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival," North Korean officials reportedly said after the country accused the U.S. of increasing hostilities on the border with South Korea. "Our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon -- the sources of all evil," North Korean Gen. Hwang Pyong-So said, according to The Telegraph.

“U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zone in the Pacific" Whether Pyongyang has the will to back up such doomsday talk is a perplexing question, <a href="">but there is evidence that its know- -- in terms of uranium enrichment, nuclear testing and missile technology -- is progressing.
March 2013: Angered by tougher U.N. sanctions and joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea, the Supreme Command of North Korea's military vowed to put "on highest alert" the country's "rocket units" that are assigned to strike "U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zone in the Pacific." Whether Pyongyang has the will to back up such doomsday talk is a perplexing question, but there is evidence that its know-how -- in terms of uranium enrichment, nuclear testing and missile technology -- is progressing.
 June 2012: Once again, North Korea vowed to be "merciless" in its promised attack on the United States, this time threatening a "sacred war" as it aimed artillery at South Korean media groups. North Korea was mad that South Korean journalists had criticized Pyongyang children's festivals meant to foster allegiance to the Kim family.
North Korea has a history of using creative language to express loathing for its enemies. Here are some of the regime's more colorful threats against the West.

March 2016: North Korea warned it would make a "preemptive and offensive nuclear strike" in response to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Pyongyang issued a long statement promising that "time will prove how the crime-woven history of the U.S. imperialists who have grown corpulent through aggression and war will come to an end and how the Park Geun Hye group's disgraceful remaining days will meet a miserable doom as it is keen on the confrontation with the fellow countrymen in the north."
South Korea has intensified its rhetoric against the leadership of North Korea since Pyongyang claimed a successful test of a nuclear warhead on September 9.

This week it tested a new type of high powered rocket engine of the type that could be used for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

‘Worst case scenario'

The defense ministry has said it is planning for the worst case scenario and assumed North Korea was ready to conduct a sixth nuclear test.
Earlier this month, Leem Ho Young, Chief Director of Strategic Planning at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described a new system called the Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation (KMPR) just hours after North Korea claimed it had tested a nuclear warhead.
It would involve surgical missile attacks, exclusive special warfare units and an ability to strike North Korea’s leadership if South Korea feels threatened by nuclear attack.

July 25, 2016

Family of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Living Large Right in NYC

Wandering through Times Square, past the Naked Cowboy and the ticket touts, she could be any immigrant trying to live the American dream.

A 60-year-old Korean woman with a soft perm and conservative clothes, she's taking a weekend off from pressing shirts and hemming pants at the dry-cleaning business she runs with her husband.

But she's not just any immigrant. She's an aunt to Kim Jong Un, the young North Korean leader who has threatened to wipe out New York City with a hydrogen bomb. And for the past 18 years, since defecting from North Korea into the waiting arms of the CIA, she has been living an anonymous life here in the United States, with her husband and three children.

"My friends here tell me I'm so lucky, that I have everything," Ko Yong Suk, as she was known when she was part of North Korea's royal family, said on a recent weekend. "My kids went to great schools and they're successful, and I have my husband, who can fix anything. There's nothing we can envy."

Her husband, previously known as Ri Gang, chimes in, laughing: "I think we have achieved the American dream."

Breaking their silence in the U.S., Ko and Ri spent almost 20 hours talking to two Washington Post reporters in New York and then at their home several hours' drive away. They were nervous about emerging from their anonymity; after all, there are Americans who analyze North Korea for a living and do not even know that the couple are here. They asked that the names they use in the U.S. and their address not be published, mainly to protect their three grown children, who live normal lives.

Ko bears a striking resemblance to her sister, Ko Yong Hui, who was one of Kim Jong Il's wives and the mother of Kim Jong Un, the third-generation leader of North Korea. And she had a particularly close relationship with the man now considered one of the United States' top enemies: She took care of Kim Jong Un while he was at school in Switzerland.

But in 1998, when Kim Jong Un was 14, and his older brother Kim Jong Chol was 17, Ko and Ri decided to defect. Ko's sister, their link to the regime, was sick with terminal breast cancer — although she did not die until 2004 — and the boys were getting older. The couple apparently realized that they would not be needed by the regime much longer and were concerned about losing their privileged status.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea for 70 years, through a repressive system built on patronage and fear. They and the top cadres in the Workers' Party benefit from this system — and have the most to lose if it collapses, or if they run afoul of the regime. So the couple decided to flee — not to South Korea, as many North Koreans do, but to the United States.

They live in a large two-story house with two cars in the driveway, a huge TV in the living room, a grill on a rear deck. They've been to Las Vegas on vacation, and two years ago went to South Korea, where Ko enjoyed visiting the palaces she had seen in TV dramas.

They look like a normal family. But look closer. That photo of her eldest son on a Jet Ski? It's at Wonsan, where the Kim family has its summer residence. That girl in the photo album? It's Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's younger sister, who runs the propaganda division of the Workers' Party.

And the house? It was bought partly with a one-time payment of $200,000 that the CIA gave the couple on their arrival, they said.

Even though Ko and Ri have not seen Kim Jong Un in almost 20 years and do not appear to have held official positions, U.S. intelligence on North Korea is so thin that this couple still represents a valuable source of information on the family court.

They can reveal, for example, that Kim Jong Un was born in 1984 — not 1982 or 1983, as widely believed. The reason they're certain? It was the same year that their first son was born. "He and my son were playmates from birth. I changed both of their diapers," Ko said with a laugh.

Sometimes, operatives from the CIA's national clandestine service come to town to show Ko and Ri photos of North Koreans and ask who the people are.

The CIA declined to confirm or comment on any of Ko and Ri's claims. Some parts of the couple's history can be verified, but other parts cannot, or seem incomplete.

Even today, Ri in particular is sympathetic toward the North Korean regime and is trying to get approval to visit Pyongyang. And both are careful in what they say about their powerful nephew, repeatedly referring to him as "Marshal Kim Jong Un." But what they will say about their former charge paints a picture of a man who was raised knowing that he would one day be king.

In 1992, Ko Yong Suk arrived in Bern, Switzerland, with Kim Jong Chol, the first son of Ko's sister and Kim Jong Il, who in two years would become the leader of North Korea. Kim Jong Un arrived in 1996, when he was 12.

"We lived in a normal house and acted like a normal family. I acted like their mother," Ko said. "I encouraged him to bring his friends home, because we wanted them to live a normal life."

Traveling on a diplomatic passport, Ri went back and forth between North Korea and Switzerland. The family spoke Korean at home and ate Korean food but also enjoyed the benefits of an expatriate family in an exotic locale. Ko took the Kim children to Euro Disney, now Disneyland Paris. Kim Jong Un had been to Tokyo Disneyland with his mother some years before — and Ko's photo albums are full of pictures of them skiing in the Swiss Alps, swimming on the French Riviera, eating at al fresco restaurants in Italy.

Kim Jong Un loved games and machinery and trying to figure out how ships float and planes fly. He was already showing personality traits that would later become much more evident. "He wasn't a troublemaker, but he was short-tempered," Ko recalled. "When his mother tried to tell him off for not studying enough, he wouldn't talk back, but he would protest in other ways, like going on a hunger strike."

Kim loved going home for the summer, spending time in Wonsan, where the family has a huge beachfront compound, or at their main residence in Pyongyang, with its movie theater and plenty of room to hang out. "He started playing basketball, and he became obsessed with it," his aunt said of the young Kim, who was a Michael Jordan fan. "He used to sleep with his basketball." He was shorter than his friends, and his mother told him that if he played basketball, he would become taller, Ko said.

The world did not know that Kim had been anointed his father's successor until October 2010, when his status was made official at a Workers' Party conference in Pyongyang. But Kim had known since 1992 that he would one day inherit North Korea.

The signal was sent at his eighth birthday party, attended by North Korea's top brass, the couple said. Kim was given a general's uniform decorated with stars, and real generals with real stars bowed to him and paid their respects to him from that moment on. "It was impossible for him to grow up as a normal person when the people around him were treating him like that," Ko said.

From a humble background, Ko was catapulted into the top echelons of North Korean society in 1975, when her sister, a performer, caught the eye of the princeling Kim Jong Il and became his third partner. "I was very close to my sister, and it was a tough job to be the wife, so she asked me to help her. She could trust me because I was her own blood," Ko said.

Kim Jong Il personally selected Ri to marry his sister-in-law. They all lived in a compound in Pyongyang, with Ko looking after her sister's and her own children for years.

"We lived the good life," Ko said. Over a sushi lunch in New York, she reminisced about drinking cognac with sparkling water and eating caviar in Pyongyang, about riding with Kim Jong Il in his Mercedes-Benz. Then came the charmed years in Europe. But in 1998, Ko's sister discovered she had breast cancer and underwent treatment in Switzerland and France.

This is where Ko and Ri's version of events starts to become opaque. Given that Ri is trying get back into Kim Jong Un's good graces, he has reason to present their defection as nothing but altruistic.

As Ri and Ko tell it, the cancer treatment in Europe was not working, so they decided they should travel to the United States to try to secure treatment for Ko's dying sister. Their defection was all about trying to save Kim Jong Un's mother, they say.

Stories about the couple in the South Korean news media have suggested that they sought asylum because they were concerned about what could happen to them after Kim Jong Un's parents died. This was their link to the royal family, and without that link, what would happen to them?

Ko seemed to imply that this had been a concern. "In history, you often see people close to a leader getting into unintended trouble because of other people," she said. "I thought it would be better if we stayed out of that kind of trouble."

The dangers persist today. Just look at the case of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle who also lived in the Pyongyang compound with Ko and Ri. He apparently built up too much power. In 2013, Kim had him executed.

So one day in 1998, Ri and Ko and their three children took a taxi to the U.S. Embassy in Bern. They said they were North Korean diplomats and wanted asylum. After several days, they were taken to a U.S. military base near Frankfurt.

They stayed in a house on the base for several months while they were questioned. It was then that Ri and Ko disclosed their family connections. "The American government didn't know who Kim Jong Un was, that he would become the leader," Ri said.

When they landed in the United States, the family spent a few days in the Washington area — not far from CIA headquarters — before moving to a small city where a South Korean church had offered to help them, as it had done for others who escaped the North.

"The people at the church kept asking us questions," Ko said. So the family moved to a different city with few other Koreans, or even other Asians. "Life was hard at the beginning. We had no relatives and we worked for 12 hours every day," Ri said. He worked as a builder, then did maintenance, jobs that were easy to do without English.

Ko was frustrated at not being able to work. "The only thing I could do without speaking the language was dry cleaning," she said in Korean. Ri speaks reasonable English today, but Ko's is still basic. So they opened a small store and began working long hours, Ri at the machines and Ko doing alterations. They soon hit their stride.

Their children have no interest in Korea, North or South, she said. Their oldest son is a mathematician. Their second son helps out in the business, while their daughter works in computer science.

They have a comfortable existence but do not appear to be living large. Stopping at a gas station for lunch on the way back to their home, Ko was disappointed that the Dunkin' Donuts was out of burritos. It's a long way from cognac and caviar.

So why are they breaking their silence now? Ri says he wants to visit North Korea and has come out of their deep cover to dispel what he calls "lies" being peddled about their wider family in North Korea by regime critics. He is particularly careful around reporters not to speak ill of the regime.

"My ultimate goal is to go back to North Korea. I understand America and I understand North Korea, so I think I can be a negotiator between the two," he said. "If Kim Jong Un is how I remember he used to be, I would be able to talk to him."

Ko said she misses her hometown — the pull of home cannot be underestimated in Korean culture — but does not want to go back. Nor does she want Ri to visit. “But how can I change my stubborn husband's mind?"


Excerpted from an article that originally appeared in The Washington Post

May 15, 2015

N.Korea’s Little Kim Jon Un Executes Defense Minister With Anti Aircraft Gun


N.Korea anti aircraft gun
Seoul: North Korea has publicly executed the country’s defense minister after the regime accused him of treason, according to reports from South Korea.
Hyon Yong Chol was killed by fire from an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in front of hundreds of people in Pyongyang, the South Korean Intelligence Agency was reported to have told parliament members in a closed door session.
Hyon was executed because he expressed discontent towards leader Kim Jong Un, and failed to follow Kim's orders on several occasions, according to Kim Gwang-lim, chairman of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee and a lawmaker with the Saenuri Party who attended the briefing.

What led to execution?

The timing of Hyon's execution is unclear. Reports suggest he was killed "around April 30." The last mention of Hyon in North Korean state media was on Wednesday, April 29, when he was reported to have attended a performance of the Moranbong Band at the People's Palace of Culture, earlier that week.
Lawmaker Kim Gwang-lim said the South Korean spy agency said that Hyon was executed without trial within two to three days of being arrested. If the dates are correct, they suggest Hyon's fall from grace was swift and decisive.
    Just last month, Hyon led a North Korean delegation to Moscow for a seminar on global security.
    Kim himself had been scheduled to go to mark Victory Day commemorations on May 9. However, in late April,Russian officials announced that he had pulled out to attend to "domestic issues" at home.
    No single incident was said to have led to Hyon's arrest and execution, although Kim Gwang-lim said, along with general neglect of duty, Hyon was seen nodding off during a meeting organized by Kim Jong Un.
    A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry said the government considered the execution to be another display of "fear politics" in North Korea.
    "Our government views that the purge is promoting the solidification of the only monolithic leadership of Kim Jong Un by creating atmosphere of fear," said Lim Byeong-cheol.
    Report: North Korea executes defense minister
    Report: North Korea executes defense minister 

    Who was Hyon?

    Hyon was a longtime Kim family loyalist who spent years working under North Korea's former leader Kim Jong Il as a high-ranking military official.
    His career continued after power transferred to the younger Kim upon the death of his father in 2011.
    "This is a big deal. He was a survivor," said Charles Armstrong, Professor of Korean studies at Columbia University.
    "He was from Kim Jong Un's father's regime. He made it through the transition. He was a very high profile military man." 
    According to a biography published on the blog North Korea Leadership Watch, Hyon's political career started in 2009 when he was elected to the 12th Supreme People's Assembly.
    As a four-star General, he was elected to the Workers' Party Central Committee in September 2010. The Central Committee is a group of around 300 high-ranking officials, which elect members of North Korea's top leadership team, who run the country under Kim.
    From July 2012 to May 2013, Hyon served as the Chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff before being promoted to Colonel General, North Korean Leadership Watch said.
    During 2014, Hyon was promoted again to the National Defense Commission (NDC), described as a supreme organ of the state which has authority over the Ministry of People's Armed Forces and Ministry of People's Security.
    "He was someone that one would have thought would remain very high up in the regime. So this kind of a shake up, particularly if he’s been executed, is quite a remarkable turn of events," Armstrong said. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been accused of ordering the executions of as many as 15 top officials so far this year. However, during a rare trip by CNN to Pyongyang last week, a top official dismissed the allegation as "malicious slander."
    "Especially because they tried to link the alleged statement to the august name of our Supreme Leader Marshall Kim Jong Un," said Park Yong Chol, the deputy director of the DPRK Institute for Research into National Reunification. 
    However, he did not deny that executions take place for crimes of treason or subversion: "It is very normal for any country to go after hostile elements and punish them and execute them."
    In December 2013, North Korean news agency KCNA confirmed that Kim's uncle Jang Song Thaek had been executed for trying to overthrow the state. The report described Jang as "despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog." 

    Defector: Kim to go in three years

    One of the most senior defectors to escape North Korea in recent years has told CNN that the spate of top-level executions has created a climate of fear among regime insiders.
    North Korean defector: Kim Jong Un out within 3 years
    North Korean defector: Kim Jong Un out within 3 years 
    "During his first three years in power, hundreds of the elite have been executed," said Park, who CNN has agreed not to identify to protect his friends and relatives still in Pyongyang. Much of what Park tells us cannot be independently verified, as North Korea is one of the most closed and repressive countries on Earth. 
    Park said Kim's brutality had undermined his power base, and predicted Kim would be replaced as leader within three years.
    The prospect of potential instability in North Korea worries experts who are concerned about the country's nuclear weapons.
    "There are quite a number -- at least a dozen -- nuclear weapons," said Armstrong of Columbia University. "We want to make sure we know who's in control of them."
    Armstrong said Kim differed from his father and grandfather, who in past purges merely pushed people aside.
    "Kim Jong Un has shown a ruthless side that we haven't seen since his grandfather consolidated power back in the 50s and 60s -- going after rivals and potential rivals and having them executed."
    He said the structure of the North Korean political system made it difficult to mount any kind of challenge to Kim's leadership -- but "anything is possible."
    "Particularly when we see these high-ranking people (like Hyon) bumped off like this. There might be a group who feel that they’re better off under a different leadership," Armstrong said.
    This news Report By KJ Kwon and Hilary Whiteman, on CNN

    December 20, 2014

    Finally The CIA Has a Target That is Not An American and “Benevolent Leader” in the Movies


    “I wanna see how it plays now that everyone thinks North Korea hacked Sony,” Seth Rogen cracks as he walks into the fluorescent-lit lobby of a multiplex in Manhattan’s East Village in early December. On deck is a preview screening of The Interview, Rogen and his pal James Franco’s latest comedy. They star as the producer and host, respectively, of a lowest-common-denominator talk show, Skylark Tonight, who land an unlikely interview with Kim Jong-un — and are promptly tapped by the CIA to assassinate Dear Leader. Rogen’s about to sit through it one more time, along with a hundred or so of his drunkest fans.
    Well, barring any unfortunate last-minute developments, that is. This summer, a North Korean UN ambassador decried the insolence of these buffoonish American filmmakers as a “most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” That was followed by a peculiarly timed missile test. But that was just an amuse-bouche. Earlier this day, a massive, embarrassing batch of internal Sony documents were leaked, with reputable outlets reporting that the hack may have been perpetrated by vengeful North Korean cyberspies.1
    It was lighthearted at first, with most of the fun coming at the expense of coddled movie execs. But in the last few days, as the hackers threatened terrorist violence against movie theaters showing The Interview, the conversation transformed. First, small theaters canceled plans to show the movie, and then the major chains followed suit. Finally, on Wednesday, Sony decided to cancel the release altogether. It’s an unbelievable, unprecedented development with dangerous implications.
    And in New York, on an agreeably pleasant December night, it is almost impossible to imagine. “Thanks for coming,” Rogen says, introducing the movie at the front of the theater, for what may well be one of the last times it will be seen in that type of venue. “Now I’m not the only one on North Korea’s shit list. Change your emails! Erase your dick pics! I know I have.” He pauses for a beat. “Not all of them.”
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    One hour earlier, Rogen sits at a small wooden table topped with ramen, pork buns, shumai, Asahi, and cold sake in a noodle shop down the street. “It was our intention to educate people exactly as much as the movie educates you,” he says of The Interview, already rolling into his throaty laugh. “Which is a little bit.”
    In the movie, Franco plays Dave Skylark, a preening TV host overjoyed by Matthew McConaughey bestiality rumors; Rogen is his liege, who pines for more substantial subject matter. When he presses Skylark to move away from fare like “Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing with puppies,” that’s when they end up with Kim.
    “The conversation we’re having in the movie, that’s the conversation that led to the movie,” Rogen explains. “Should we try to inject some content into our fluff? Yeah. A little bit.”
    Rogen’s “fluff” has stretched for 15 years now, from his tender work on Freaks and Geeks up through the deranged apocalypse of last year’s surprise box office smash This Is the End. There was a time when he and his crew could do no wrong. “You want to make a movie about fightin’ robots?” Rogen once recalled telling his pal Jonah Hill, as Hill was debating an offer for Transformers. “Make your own movie about fightin’ robots. You can do that. That’s on the table now.” But inevitably, the fall from grace came.
    There was the Rogen-costarring Funny People, which garnered Judd Apatow’s first lukewarm reviews since the latter man took command of comedy Hollywood. There was the relative flop of The Green Hornet, an aspiring superhero blockbuster that cost $120 million to make and had Rogen as an ill-conceived, crime-fighting heir ne’er-do-well. By then, there was a general sense that perhaps Rogen, King of the Bros With Heart, had overstayed his welcome.
    Rogen’s response was simple: He just kept working and pursuing interesting parts. Long before the box office tallies came in for Hornet, he’d moved on to the commendably uncloying cancer comedy 50/50; it was also the first movie that Rogen and his writing and directing partner and childhood best friend, Evan Goldberg, produced themselves. He played a lovable schlub in Sarah Polley’s quietly crushing Take This Waltz. In Jody Hill’s Observe and Report, one of the most misunderstood movies of the last 10 years, he went to dark places.
    “We made that movie before I had ever been in a movie that didn’t do really, really well,” Rogen says. “A lot of the reason it got made is because people weren’t sure if I was on some unstoppable Jim Carrey streak.” He shifts into the yap of an excitable exec: “‘We can put him in anything!’ And — yeah. That proved not to be the case. At all. I was just another guy.”
    There must have been relief in that?
    “It was actually nice!” he says, tiny white sake mug in hand. “Yes. Very much so.”
    Rogen’s trajectory begins with Freaks and its spiritual sequel, Undeclared, another one-season cult object in which “everyone was hooking up with everyone and getting fucked-up every free moment they had.” Then we move to the white heat of the Apatow takeover, which came with the requisite moneyed overindulgence. “We’ve done all that stuff over the years,” he says. “Thank god, for some reason we were never of interest to tabloids. If I was, I would have been very entertaining to watch.” These days, Rogen is happily married to writer and actor Lauren Miller, with whom he shares custody of a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. And he now is fully engaged in the third phase of his career: a nice, steady little groove.
    For This Is the End, he reassembled the old crew to play neutered versions of themselves — and then he killed them all off, himself included. There was a clear implication there, a cleansing. It helped that that strange movie — in which the devil is real, and has a giant dick — did so well. According to (ahem) leaked information, it was Sony’s most profitable film of 2013, netting $50 million in “ultimates.” A happy ending, especially considering that it was rejected, Rogen says, by “every studio in Hollywood” before Sony said yes.
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    Neighbors fits snugly into Rogen’s meta narrative, too. No longer the addled man-child, his character is a father living next door to his former self, heartbroken by envy as he watches man-children from a fraternity party. There’s a marked maturity, as well, in Rose Byrne’s character. As Rogen’s wife, she’s an equal if not greater force for destruction and chaos, manipulative and totally nuts. Once, Katherine Heigl dismissed female characters like her role in Knocked Up as “shrews, as humorless and uptight,” and was subsequently excommunicated. But Rogen, it’s clear, waslistening. And that played, too: Neighbors earned $268 million worldwide.
    For all its broad strokes, The Interview is also a step forward. The explosions and nukes and violence — the bat-shit, screeching, finger-chomping violence — are new for him. And for the first time in his working relationship with Rogen, Franco is let entirely off the leash. Seeing him net praise for his bonkers work in Spring Breakers — which was “like, all the shit we tell him not to do” — Rogen had a realization: “People have a much higher tolerance for it than I would have ever imagined!”
    And then there are the aforementioned geopolitical ramifications. Thanks to the leak, we learned that The Interview was cause for Sony’s chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, to meddle in the work of the tacitly independent Sony Pictures for the first time in at least 25 years. Tokyo is only 800 miles from Pyongyang; Japan can’t quite see North Korea as a faraway joke.
    In question was the possibility of toning down the nature of the inevitable death of Kim Jong-un. In a flurry of emails exchanged by Sony execs about the process, all manner of unusual phrasings were thrown around: “there is no face melting, less fire in the hair”; “the head explosion has been considerably obscured by fire”; “I would still like to see them eliminate the tendril of flesh of the left side of his forehead that comes just before the fireball.”
    “I don’t feel like falling on my sword for this one,” the hack-maligned Sony chief, Amy Pascal, writes at one point. “No other studio would even touch this movie and we all know it.” It’s certainly a bold swing: Depicting the killing of a sitting world leader — even when it’s a nuclear-armed bogeyman like Kim Jong-un — will make many incredibly uncomfortable.
    There is a precedent here, ranging from the recent — Team America: World Police’s handling of Kim’s father, then alive and well — to the more distant. During World War II, a burgeoning breed of cartoonists would delight in depicting their superheroic new creations knocking around the fascist kings of Europe and Japan. The latter tradition is memorialized in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
    Early on, the titular duo’s creation, the Escapist, is seen on a comic-book cover with his “big right fist arcing across the page to deliver an immortal haymaker,” leaving none other than Adolf Hitler “flying at you backward, right-crossed clean out of the painting, head thrown back, forelock a-splash, arms flailing, jaw trailing a long red streamer of teeth.”
    “The violence of the image was startling, beautiful, strange,” Chabon writes. “It stirred mysterious feelings in the viewer, of hatred gratified, of cringing fear transmuted into smashing retribution.”
    “This shit has been done,” Rogen says. “We’re walking in the shadows of a lot of smart people that have done it a lot more effectively.” He seems genuinely surprised by the blowback. He insists on generally benevolent intentions. “This wasn’t to piss [North Korea] off or incite them. It didn’t even occur to us until halfway through filming that they might even be aware of the movie in any capacity.”
    So, is he worried about the ramifications? Does he worry about his physical safety? On the day of the screening, it does feel a bit ridiculous to ask. But since the actual release of the movie has been canceled, everything is on the table.
    In early December, Rogen can still laugh about it and wave a hand around the restaurant: “Yeah, all these people are my security. No, I mean [North Korea] has never harmed anyone on U.S. soil. Ever. Not that we had the conversation a lot, but in the moments that we did, that’s what we fell back on.” He stops and thinks, rolling again into his laugh. “It would be amazing if we were the first ones … ”
    With dinner wrapped, Rogen walks down the street to the Village Pourhouse, where a fan meet-and-greet has been arranged by popular bro-culture website the Chive. Outside the bar, the recognition starts. An NYU kid lugging a flat-screen stops, stares, and inquires, “Are you Seth Rogen?!”
    “Yup,” he answers, and without stopping or missing a beat, “Are you stealing that TV?”
    Inside the bar’s packed backroom, the pace escalates. Rogen is offered drugs within roughly four seconds. “Hey,” a young man whispers, before being politely rebuffed, “I got a pocketful of weed right now.”
    As a girl fawns over Rogen, her boyfriend jokes that he might be single by the end of the night. “I’ve never been beaten up by a fan before,” Rogen banters back. “That’d ruin my press tour!”
    A few beers later, Rogen is across the street in the theater. After his introduction, he settles into a back-row seat to watch. This is when it becomes clear how seriously Rogen takes his comedy.
    Rogen and Goldberg are lucky that their tastes naturally align with the desires of the mass market. They’re good at making sure young people are still paying attention. But they also rely on an aggressively pragmatic process. They like to test-screen their movies, over and over. Sometimes they set up a test screening just to hear how one joke plays. They won’t always ask for written audience feedback; often, they just want to sit, listen, and gauge the laughter.
    “What we try to avoid the most is a swing and a miss,” Rogen explains. “That destroys the trust. All of a sudden, [the audience] doesn’t feel like they’re in good hands.” They strip away the duds, working to make sure that the plot and characters are strong enough to carry the crowd to the next big joke. “We can never be the guys that no one can tell us, ‘It sucks,’” Rogen says. “We don’t need to listen when people tell us, ‘It sucks.’ But we should always have a system in place where a lot of people can, at any given moment, tell us, ‘It sucks.’”
    But there is always a little panic. “Your instinct is to keep pushing things in a realm where it’s unsure if it’ll work,” he says. “That’s what makes it exciting, but also makes it really fucking scary. What I always worry about as I’m getting drunk with Evan at the TGI Fridays across [from] the theater before our first test screening is, there’s a conceptual element of the movie that people could reject. Like, ‘Fuck that. I’m done.’ And 30 seconds into the movie, we’re dead. Like, do people know who the fuck Kim Jong-un is at all?”
    Thirty seconds into this showing of The Interview — which he’s seen countless times before — Rogen watches intently. An adorable little girl is onscreen. We’re in North Korea, and a government ceremony of some sort is taking place. She begins to sing, beautifully. And the subtitles fill us in: “May America die in a fiery hell!” The first laughs rumble in. For now, some relief.
    Removing his winter cap for the first time, Rogen sits and monitors the crowd. Just one row up, a couple of boozed kids talk loudly and sloppily, and Rogen strains to understand what they’re saying. “He’s explaining, ‘That guy’s the producer,’” Rogen reports back. “I didn’t think it was complicated!” A Lord of the Rings reference falls flat, and Rogen shrugs: “That’s an example of a joke only we find funny.”
    In between chortling at every bizarre Franco facial expression, Rogen keeps up a steady DVD commentary the rest of the way.
    These mountains are CG.
    That song’s by the guy who plays Kato in The Green Hornet.
    Franco’s dressed like the Joker in this one scene.
    This is our psychedelic military porn montage.
    That’s a real fucking tiger!
    Just before a drug sequence: “This scene shows you how much people like Ecstasy. Just cheering for Ecstasy.”
    Has Rogen done Ecstasy?
    “Oh yeah,” he responds, over the sounds of the correctly predicted outburst. “Tons.”
    The drunken cross chatter is strong, but at this point in the movie, the laughter is loud enough to drown it out. The audience is hooked, and is learning that The Interview — for all of its accidental warmongering and bold-faced absurdity — is a tale that Rogen has told many times, and told well.
    Certainly, the dramatic real-life events have drowned out the actual content of the movie. Whatever happens, The Interview will forever be a talking point in the argument about the liberties permissible to art. At some point soon, we may know conclusively if this was an act of aggression by a rogue nation — the New York Times is reporting that North Korea was in fact “centrally involved” in the hack. But for now, we’ll argue: Are there some things too horrible to be wrangled into comedy? Or is there always value in trying? And should anyone ever be able to scare us into censoring ourselves?
    For just a few moments, let’s return to the actual content on the screen and this movie with an uncertain future. Near the movie’s end, through the gunsight of a Soviet tank, Dave Skylark and Kim Jong-un come to understand each other as two kids starved for the love and approval of their fathers. The stakes certainly are higher, and the satire bigger. But once again, we’re talking about a couple of Bros With Heart.
    And at this crucial juncture, a character poops his pants. Which seems completely gratuitous until you remember it’s a direct callback to an earlier scene, tying up the whole endeavor neatly. “It’s rare when you get to have someone organically shit themselves,” Rogen says, beaming. “It serves the story!”

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