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Home Uncategorized On the Necessary Execution of a Prince

On the Necessary Execution of a Prince

The man who was widely regarded as second-in-command in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Jang Song-thaek, was not long ago arrested, tried and executed. He was accused of having “perpetrated anti-party counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership of [the] party and [the] state and the socialist system”. It sounds a bit old-fashioned, but then again North Korea is generally seen as an old-fashioned communist regime. In perfect Stalinist mode, Jang’s image has been removed from official photographs. However, behind the archaic language and approach, it seems there may be political business of a more contemporary character under way. The arrest was televised, as was Jang’s court appearance and sentencing. The television coverage was deliberate: the authorities clearly wanted Jang’s destruction to be witnessed. The question is which section of society was intended as the primary audience. Was it intended to frighten other high officials? Perhaps, but they would have known anyway the risks attendant on their chosen careers. Possibly the events that were televised were primarily for the benefit of the wider public, not to terrify them by showing the persecution of an ordinary citizen but to edify them by showing a lofty figure brought low. If this is the case it would mark a change in emphasis. Traditionally the governing Workers’ Party has followed a Stalinist model of terrorising the general public. The purpose of the televised purge may have been to demonstrate that the new leader, Kim Jong-un, was changing things and that he was prepared to take on elevated figures, including his uncle, in the process. The big change which is said to be under way in Korea is the liberalisation of the economy and the gentle winding down of the command model. Neo-Stalinist terror doesn’t work in free enterprise economies. A recent UN report reveals that state terror against the people has long been the practice in North Korea. But such behaviour would be counterproductive in a private enterprise economy. Perhaps it is no accident that two of the country’s largest internment camps have apparently recently been closed. State terror may be easing in an effort to win public support for, and engagement with, the new economy. Private enterprise involves putting your head above the parapet. In order to do this you have to feel reasonably comfortable it will not be chopped off. Patrick Maurus, in a recent article in Le Monde Diplomatique, argues that…

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