Saturday, July 26, 2014

N.Korean Elite 'Getting Restive'

We have seen a number of reports over the past few weeks that taken together indicate that there could be some significant problems within the regime. These include the "beans for leave" in the 5th Corps, the shooting of the Guards Corps cars in the north by military forces, and the defection of families of "senior" Army officials.  Now there is this significant report below.  We really need to be watchful and wary  - and we should wish we had been making all the preparations necessary since Robert Collins' published his seminal work in 1996, "Patterns of Collapse," also known as the "Seven Phases of Collapse" in which he describes the pattern or phases that the Kim Family Regime and the north Korean elite, military and security services, and the population might go through to reach the catastrophic collapse of north Korea.  The one thing he did not do is put a time estimate on this "process."  I have excerpted the definitions of each of the phases below for reference.  My assessment is that we are seeing the possible transition between Phase four "Suppression" and Phase five "Resistance"  but conditions could bounce back and forth between the two.  But if the regime is not able to continue effective suppression then we could see resistance grow and lead to Phase six, "Fracture."  This bears watching.

            a. Phase One: Resource Depletion - Economic collapse paradigm stresses across-the-board mistakes in domestic and foreign policies that contribute to inputs/outputs in a national  production model (nKorea emphasizes heavy industry over light industry at an 8:2 ratio).  Policy mistakes and subsequent failures in major components of the economy begin to impact infrastructure and economic sub-systems as major system-maintenance resources become unavailable.

            b. Phase Two: Prioritization - Quantity of resources becomes insufficient to supply/maintain each sub-system of infrastructure.  Administration employs one or both of two policies of selective provision:
                        - Selective provision policy one (SPP 1): Each sub-system receives proportionately less than minimum maintenance level; and/or:
                        - Selective provision policy two (SPP 2): Selected sub-systems receive no resources whatsoever in order to provide subsistance levels to the other sub-systems.

            c. Phase Three: Local Independence - Realization of lack of subsistence or perceived near-term lack creates localized independent motivation to acquire subsistence materials, either individually or collectively, through intentional circumvention of  established policy.  Sub-system types are collective farms, factories and administrative units that are integrated units whereby workers/citizens acquire social identification.

            d. Phase Four: Suppression - Empirically, localized independent economic activity implies a corresponding level of independent political intention.  This in turn is perceived by the Core Group as violation of state (read Core Group) policies and threatening to Core Group control.  National I/S assets will be employed with maximum, even indiscriminate, powers necessary to suppress actions that are in contradiction, or perceived to be in contradiction, of state policies.  This is the most pivotal of phases.  Successful suppression is critical to regime/Core Group survival and the continuation their policies. The lack of success in suppression  implies success in resistance.             e. Phase Five: Resistance - Based on success of suppression (or lack thereof), sub-system groups and/or individual leaders (as opposed to individuals) will elevate levels of resistance both horizontally and vertically, organizationally and violently.             f. Phase Six: Fracture - Progression to this phase is difficult without an extreme amount of violence occurring beforehand.  Increased and confident organizational resistance, from the local level upward, will move Core Group members (read military leaders with real power or influential civilians allied with real military power as opposed to mere influential leaders) to splinter into sub-groups.  These sub-groups splinter because of opposing views in dealing with the resistance.  The splinter process will be consistent with korean political socialization (loyalty based on family, association and/or classmate, regionalism).                       g. Phase Seven: Realignment - Should suppression fail and the fracture phase be reached, a realignment of national leadership will be unavoidable.  The elimination of the entire Core Group is not likely.  New national leadership will find it necessary to implement immediate reform consistent with its support base.  Realignment of the national leadership does not mean immediate peaceful unification with the Republic of Korea.
Also, below the article I have pasted some of the details of Phases four, five, and Six, Suppression, Resistance, and fraction for those who want to try to keep score.  The key question for the Kim Family Regime is whether it can maintain sufficient loyalty of the military and sufficient power to continue suppression.  Again, this bears watching.

N.Korean Elite 'Getting Restive'

Senior officials in North Korea's Workers Party and military are increasingly objecting to policies or ignoring orders from leader Kim Jong-un, leading to rumors that his grip on the country is weakening, sources said Tuesday.

A source said Kim Jong-un recently presided over a meeting on bolstering North Korea's power supply and called for more hydro-electric power plants, but senior officials claimed that the North's chronic power shortage can be resolved only by building nuclear plants. 

"Kim was furious and fired them on the spot, stripping them of their ranks," the source added.

As North Korea forfeited international support to build a light-water reactor after its nuclear test, Kim has been focusing on constructing large-scale hydro-electric projects like the Heecheon and Chongchon river dams. 

But officials insist that will not be enough to solve the chronic electricity shortage.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un inspects a rural orchard in these photos released by Rodong Sinmun on Thursday. /NewsisNorth Korea leader Kim Jong-un inspects a rural orchard in these photos released by Rodong Sinmun on Thursday. /Newsis
On another recent occasion Kim watched a football match at a military base, and after he left the players beat up the referee to vent their anger at his decision while lower-ranking soldiers in the football squad assaulted senior officers, suggesting that discipline is fraying everywhere. 

A growing number of soldiers are disgruntled over being roped into labor in construction projects like a ski resort in Masikryong which is one of Kim's pet projects.

Another source said, "One high-ranking military officer was caught complaining about several new construction projects Kim Jong-un proposed in his New Year's address and was punished."

North Koreans are apparently disaffected because Kim was spotted flashing broad grins in public after a high-rise apartment collapsed in Pyongyang in May, killing around 400 members of the elite.

One foreign businessman who visited Pyongyang early this month said, "When Kim Jong-il was in power, North Koreans of all ranks parroted the same opinions, but this time it was different. There were quite a lot of North Koreans who complained about Kim Jong-un and senior party and military officials." / Jul. 26, 2014 08:16 KST
            d. Phase Four: Suppression - Both the incorporation of local internal security elements into independent activity and the activity itself are perceived as direct challenges to the authority of Kim Chong-il and the Core Group.  The Core Group will respond to such challenges in both indiscriminate and calculated manners.  This phase must be successful to prevent the further breakdown of the regime’s control.  The regime’s full energies will address whatever the regime itself perceives as threats.  nKorea’s track record at suppressing isolated incidents is well established.  Again, success here is paramount to the survival of the regime and world public opinion will not be an effective deterrent.

                        1/ Internal Security systems (even paramilitary units) will be mobilized to employ indiscriminate force to make examples of groups of citizens or entire sub-system(s). Entire sub-systems, such as collective farms deemed collectively guilty of independent (read politically disloyal) activity, will be instantly converted into political crime camps guarded by military or paramilitary units.

                        2/ Local active-duty company and battalion-level military units will be mobilized to employ indiscriminate violent force for the most severe cases.  A severe case would be organized demonstrations (of any kind, but food riots would be an eminent example) against the local or national government.
                        3/ Suppression operations could be streamlined to improve overall effectiveness in dealing with dissidence and/or independent activity.  An example of this streamlining would be the establishment of local “civil order” commands which consolidate local internal security and military assets.  (Inter-agency sharing of information and planning is indeed uncommon to the nKorean political structure.  However, the severity of the situation most likely would be perceived as justification to consolidate.) This inter-agency cooperation would facilitate both detection of and response to increased dissidence and/or independent activity.  The command function could vary.  Two proto-types would be a local ministry of state security official obtaining operational control of a military quick reaction force provided by the local military commander for the purpose of immediate countermeasure.  A more likely proto-type would be the requirement for local security officials to report not only up their chain of command but laterally or even directly to the local military commander.  The commander then acts on this information and, armed with the authority of the “local civil order command,” orders his troops to suppress the reported dissidence with whatever force necessary. 

                        4/ Mass arrests and purges. nKorea has a long history of this activity.  Political reasons are invariably cited as justification, even when activity is clearly not political but civil crime.  The nKorean regime has already divided the nKorean populace into 51 distinct categories of loyalty or disloyalty.  Those arrested and their families are reclassified to disloyal categories.  Arrests and purges become indiscriminate when local authorities feel personally threatened when pyongyang’s intended impact is not delivered to the expected extent.  

                        5/ Show trials and public executions.  These are employed to demonstrate regime’s resolve and demand for adherence to political guidelines.
            e. Phase Five: Resistance - This phase presupposes that the supression phase failed to meet its intended goals.  Local groups, even new sub-systems evolving out of independent activity, will gain confidence in their ability not to succumb to the government’s suppression attempts either through open resistance or manipulation of reporting that forwards false data.

                        1/  Refusal to obey government directives.  These directives will be ignored because those that resist perceive enforcement is unlikely.

                        2/ Usurpation of government assets, such as storehouses or competing sub-systems.  This will enhance the power of local resistance activities, whether economically or politically based.

                        3/ Threats and violence employed against internal security representatives to either win their culpability or simple elimination.  Resistance groups will lose their fear of internal security forces and either eliminate them, beginning at the basic level, or incorporate them into their local sub-system to assist in their activity.

                        4/ The more successful local resistance becomes, the more likely a resource-denied sub-system (which is already a paramilitary unit within the nKorean social system) will begin to employ counter-force against the regime’s mobilized military units.  Such an incident will become a central issue dominating the attention of the Core Group.

                        5/ Successful armed resistance, though only at the sub-system level (company to battalion-sized paramilitary level) will lead the regime’s Core Group to employ combined arms operations against the resistance group.  Some military leaders receiving such orders will hesitate to employ maximum indiscriminate force against local citizens and will immediately be relieved if not executed on the spot.  Other leaders will execute the executioner.  The depth of the resistance phase can be measured by the rank of the officer who does not obey orders from Pyongyang.

                        6/ Low echelon border units, along both the northern border and the DMZ, will cross the border and the mdl while senior echelons are preoccupied with resistance suppression.   Platoon commanders will be capable of initiating a platoon level crossing of the border or DMZ for the purpose of avoiding punishment, chaos, or worse.  After eliminating the company’s single political officer, a company commander would be capable of taking a whole company across the DMZ.  The senior battalion commander would be forced to call for artillery fires into the DMZ or beyond to halt the platoon or company-sized defections across the DMZ.  He would do this knowing that he would probably be immediately executed for permitting it to happen in the first place.  This process would not likely end until the division or corps level.

            f. Phase Six: Fracture - This phase is the most unpredictable.  The current regime and its Core Group members must see the success of the suppression phase as critical to their survival.  Failure of the suppression phase likely results in a quick transition through the resistance phase to the fracture phase.  Fracture will likely result in violence.  The types of fracture are calculable but where the fissures begin is not.  This phase will be characterized by the following:

                        1/ Internal Security systems (regional or national)  will be unable to comply with directives due to ineffectiveness.

                        2/ Core Group members or sub-group(s) openly (as opposed to private consultation) oppose Core Group directives.

                        3/ Division-sized military unit commanders ignore Core Group orders.  They perceive the orders extraordinary and do not believe them or are so appalled (through Korean perception) by the orders they make a conscious decision not to obey.

                        4/ Public execution employed against core-group member or members.  This is an indication of severe disagreement within the Core Group.  However, successful execution of one of these Core Group members is also an indication of containment to a limited degree.

                        5/ Division-sized military unit commanders who oppose Core Group orders ally with one another to oppose counter actions.  This amounts to civil war.  If Kim Chong-il and the Core Group wait to this point before initiating a nKorean attack against the Republic of Korea (as
a means to put an end to resistance energies), it may be too late.  As other dictators have in the past, a wartime footing provides the opportunity for internal security apparati to eliminate military commanders previously perceived by the regime to as supporters of resistance.

                        6/ Internal security officers executed or neutralized within entire systems or numerous adjacent sub-systems.

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