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Kim Jong Un makes new secret organization to fight military corruption in North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a military parade on April 15, 2017. Kim warned of a "new strategic weapon" the world would see in 2020. (Yonhap News/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)
April 14, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has set up a secret organization, referred to as the “Military Government Guidance Department,” with the intent of reining in military corruption, sources in the reclusive country said.

The new organization, established Dec 12, 2019 at the fifth plenary session of the seventh term of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party, has been granted enough power to monitor even the heads of the North Korean military’s General Political Bureau and other core commands, and has the authority to observe the private lives of military officers as high as the rank of general.

“The new Military Government Guidance Department began operations in early March,” a military source in Pyongyang, who asked not to be identified, told RFA’s Korean Service recently.

“Currently, members of the [organization] have been dispatched to the corps headquarters to examine the lifestyles of high-ranking military officials, including corps commanders, looking into their capabilities and incomes,” the source said.

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“Until now, it has been the General Political Bureau that’s in charge of stopping abuses in military power, but since the [new organization] is under the direct control of the supreme command [headed by Kim Jong Un], officials of the Political Bureau, who wield enormous power, are themselves now subject to inspection,” the source added.

Describing how the organization was formed, he told RFA: “On Kim Jong Un’s orders, the members of the Military Government Guidance Department were selected by the Central Party, and deputized while dressed in military uniforms.”

“The organization was made to protect and maintain the Central Committee and the supreme leader,” the source added.

According to the source, the department’s inspections into military and government leaders can also be done without their knowledge.

“In addition to the official inspection, the Military Government Guidance Department can secretly investigate the ideological trends and private lives of corps leaders, division leaders, and brigade commanders, as well as arrest suspects immediately if any elements are found against the regime,” the source said.

Another military source who asked not to be named, from North Pyongan province, told RFA that although the department is relatively new, the creation of such an organization had been discussed towards the end of the administration of Kim’s late father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who ruled from 1994 to 2011.

“I understand the Military Government Guidance Department was conceived of during the Kim Jong Il era, when Kim Jong Un was in charge of the military operation department of the General Staff department,” the second source said.

“Since the inauguration of Kim Jong Un’s administration, the supreme leadership has mobilized the General Political Bureau to clean up the party and the military’s power base. So now there is a closed-door organization to inspect the high-ranking officials of the General Political Bureau,” the second source added.

According to the source, political conflict with the United States, over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and sanctions meant to suppress those capabilities, has served as a catalyst for corruption.

“Even the General Political Bureau officials are worried about the instability of the regime, so corruption is rampant. This has made the supreme command nervous, so that is why they created the Military Government Guidance Department,” the second source said.

“They want to tighten discipline in the People’s Armed Forces and eliminate the possibility of reactionary military officials,” the second source added.

The second source confirmed that the department was specifically made to watch the watchers.

“Above all the main task of the Military Government Guidance Department is to assess ideological trends, corruption and combat readiness of the high-ranking military officials, and report this assessment to the supreme command.