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September 08, 2010

Former North Korean Soldiers Vow to Overthrow Kim Family Rule

by Steve Herman

A new organization in South Korea, claiming it includes more than 100 former North Korean military members, vows to end Pyongyang's government and unify the Korean peninsula. The North Korea Peoples Liberation Front also says it has support from current members of the communist state's military, but political analysts are skeptical.

Exit 3 of Seoul's Singil subway station seems an unlikely place to begin a revolution. But 75 people who say they are former North Korean soldiers and other defectors gathered there to do just that.

Quest to liberate homeland

Clad in camouflage fatigues, some with pellet guns holstered on their belts, they stood at attention in the rain to launch their quest to liberate their homeland on its 62nd anniversary.

They shout, "The souls of those who starved to death curse Kim Jong II!"

Leaders of the group they call the North Korea Peoples Liberation Front then read a statement condemning to death the North Korean leader and staged his mock execution.

The group says it will leave the actual overthrow of North Korea's government to co-conspirators it claims to have inside the country. The group says it is in contact with disaffected officers of the North Korean army.

Namkung Young, a political science professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, says the group's members certainly know better than most outsiders what the situation is like inside North Korea. But he says they should be realistic and know there is little chance of achieving their goals in the near future.

Impact on relations

The professor cautions that South Korean government support for such an organization could further worsen tensions with Pyongyang.

South Korea's government is saying little about the group. An official at the Unification Ministry, who did not want to speak for attribution, notes any group has freedom of association in the country as long as it does not violate the law. Beyond that, he says, the ministry has no comment about the group.

Some North Korea scholars are skeptical. They ask if the group has collaborators in the North Korean military, why would it publicly reveal that?

Human-rights experts and many governments consider impoverished North Korea to be one of the most repressive nations in the world. Defectors say citizens can be condemned to years in harsh prison camps for any criticism of the government.

Discontentment

A U.S. military analyst is unaware of any independent corroboration of the group's claim that troops in the North are discontented enough to try overthrowing the government.

North Korea is preparing to hold a rare political meeting. Political analysts believe delegates of the Workers' Party will elect, for the first time in three decades, new leaders. Among the fresh faces may be the supreme leader's third son, Kim Jong Un. That could be the first significant step by the elder Kim to pass power to his little-known offspring, who is believed to be about 27 years old.

North Korea says party delegates will meet in Pyongyang in early September. Dress rehearsals have been held but just when the meeting will begin – like so much else in the reclusive state – remains shrouded in mystery.