On Feb. 22, the Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) of Washington, D.C., and the North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC) of New York City hosted an important seminar at the National Press Club in the U.S. capital. The title was "FEARPOLITIK: Kim Jong-un's Great Purge." I was there as a guest.
Released at the seminar was "Executions and Purges of North Korean Elites: An Investigation onto Genocide Based on High-Ranking Officials' Testimonies" by NKSC.
There were three speakers: David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Jared Genser, managing director of Perseus Strategies, who has been heavily involved in global cases relating to human rights; and Kang Chol-hwan, chairman of NKSC.
Peter Lee of NKSC interpreted Kang's presentation made in Korean. The moderator was the well-known Greg Scarlatoiu who is executive director of HRNK.
All panelists stressed that any negotiation on denuclearization in North Korea would fail unless human rights violations were included in the negotiation.
Maxwell points out that denial of human rights is a tool for Kim Jong-un to perpetuate his regime, and that companies should not, and likely would not, invest in North Korea unless human rights are addressed before their investment decisions.
When I asked to evaluate the direction of President Moon Jae-in's policy toward North Korea, Maxwell responded by saying that in his view as a security expert, the North Korean military has been in an offensive mode, while the South Korean military has been in a defensive mode.
Recent agreements between the two Koreas effectively disarm the defensive posture of the South Korean military, while leaving the offensive posture of the North Korean military unchanged. This makes the South's security more dangerous.
Genser stressed that human rights issues should be on the table of any negotiation with North Korea. Otherwise, these negotiations will simply elevate Kim Jong-un's status in the international community, while legitimizing human rights violations in the North.
Genser points out that Kim fears for his life underneath his smiles, and current negotiations with North Korea are precarious since he may be assassinated at any time.
Kang, who himself is a refugee from North Korea, reminded the audience that unlike his father and grandfather who rarely killed their relatives, Kim Jong-un killed many of his close relatives, including his stepfather, stepmother, uncle Jang Song-thaek, and more. Jang's wife, who is Kim Jong-un's aunt, simply disappeared. No one seemed to know what happened to her.
Kang states that Kim is so paranoid of his security that he even killed the chief of his security forces who protect him. Kang also points out that current negotiations will simply boost Kim's status, unless human rights issues are included in negotiations.
Now, I will list names of North Korea elites who have been executed by Kim Jong-un. Names are followed in parentheses by position, year of execution, and brief notes when needed. The names below are some of the many who were executed.
Hong Suk-hyung (North Hamkyong party secretary and former director of planning and finance department, 2011); Ryu Kyung (director of the State Security Department, 2011); Ri Yong-ho (chief of staff of the North Korean People's Army, 2012); Kim Chol (deputy director of the Ministry of the People's Army, 2012).
Jang Song-thaek (Kim Il-sung's son-in-law and Kim Jong-un's uncle, 2013); Jeon Young-jin (Jang Song-thaek's brother in law and former Cuba ambassador, 2013); Ryu Jae-kwan (chief of the Beijing Haedanghwa Restaurant, 2013); Park Kwang-cheol (ambassador to Sweden, 2013, entire family sent to prison camp). Kim executed many more during 2013 with some being executed with their entire families.
Baek Gye-ryong (chief of the Central Party, 2014); Kim Kyung-hee (Kim Jong-un's aunt, 2014, assassinated); 10 key members of the People's Security Department (all executed, 2014).
Byun In-sun (general of the People's Army, 2015); Choi Young-gun (deputy prime minister, 2015); Kim Young-jin (deputy prime minister for education, 2016); 50 staff members (State Security Department, 2016, executed by anti-aircraft guns).
Kim Jong-nam (Kim Jong-un's half-brother, 2017, assassinated at Malaysia airport); Kim Won-hong (head of the State Security Department, 2017, purged); 10 high-ranking officers (North Korean military officers of the General Political Bureau, 2017). Execution continued through 2018 as four high ranking officials, including Hwang Yong-sik who was the CEO of the Kum Kang Development Company, were executed.
If you want to know details about executions in North Korea, you may obtain a copy of the Executions and Purges of North Korean Elites, published by the North Korea Strategy Center.
I only wish that leaders of North Korea would never have an opportunity to influence the criminal justice system in South Korea, that the safety of North Korean refugees living in the South be completely guaranteed, and that the current practice of prosecuting high-ranking officials of the past administrations either slow down or, at the least, be explained more clearly.
Chang Se-moon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the director of the Gulf Coast Center for Impact Studies. The views expressed in the above article are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial direction of The Korea Times.