Context and Precedence
Most of you read about it on-line or heard about it on Fox News. It’s hardly worth the effort to discuss it but some of you e-mailed so I will. On 5 May, the Ministry of State Security announced it had uncovered and foiled an assassination plot against Kim Jong Un arranged by the US and South Korea.
A North Korean citizen supposedly was coerced into participating. He allegedly received bribes, satellite communications equipment and instructions from South Korea. The US and South Korean intelligence services made contact with the man while he was working in Russia in 2014.
The would-be assassin supposedly was to be provided a biochemical toxin to kill Kim during a public ceremony, such as during one of Kim’s ceremonial visits to the mausoleum to his grandfather and father in Pyongyang.
The Mouse that Roared
This story contained so little credibility that it did not survive a day in international media. Kim is one of the most heavily protected heads of state in the world. The probability of someone, who is not a member of the security detail, gaining even distant access to Kim is remote.
However, this kind of story reinforces multiple internal indoctrination messages. For North Korean propagandists, it is a mark of prestige that the most powerful country in the world – the US– would plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea — and, of course, fail. Secondly, they will boast that the wily and evil scheme of the most powerful country in the world was foiled by the North Korean State Security Ministry.
Historical Assassination Attempts in the DPRK
All three Kims have been targets for assassination at various times. Kim Chong-il avoided several serious assassination attempts in the first two months after his father died in July 1994. In his first year in power, there were more than a dozen narrow escapes.
Photo (left): Kim Jong Un and his uncle, Chang Song Taek. Un had his uncle executed by stripping him naked and having him fed to 120 starving, savage, feral dogs while the North Korean elites watched.
News sources report that Kim Jong Un has been targeted on multiple occasions, including by the uncle that Kim had executed: Chang Song-taek. Reasons for resenting Kim Jong Un include his lack of experience, his lack of military knowledge, the dynastic succession process which is fundamentally anti-communist, and his temperament.
The genuine, near-miss assassination attempts have come from within North Korea, often from the military. North Korean press never acknowledges the existence of genuine murder plots from within North Korea.
On 7 May, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that another visiting American academic official was arrested.
“On 6 May, a relevant agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) detained a US citizen, who worked as an administration official for Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, on a charge of perpetrating a hostile act against the Republic.”
“A relevant agency is currently conducting a detailed investigation into the crimes by the US citizen.”
This is the second US citizen to be arrested who also worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The other man was a visiting professor. He was arrested on 22 April. The number of US citizens in North Korea is never large because North Korea always” knows” they are spies in one fashion or another and carefully controls travelers. If North Korean authorities approve a visa for a US citizen, the approval always serves a political purpose. Potential use as a hostage in negotiations with the US is one of those purposes.