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Major Intrigue In North Korea, As Key Leader Is Found Dead Before Possible Power Handoff

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Gus Lubin
Business Insider
Friday, June 4, 2010

A behind-the-scenes powerlord in North Korea was found dead Wednesday night in an apparent car crash.

The death of 80-year-old Ri Je-gang sets off major alarms after the recent ouster of many senior North Korean officials. Chosun Ilbo suggests these are signs of a major power struggle:

[E]xperts say the timing of his death is peculiar, coming as it did hard on the heels of the dismissal on May 14 of Kim Il-chol, the minister of the people’s armed forces, for reasons of old age, also at the age of 80. Ri Yong-chol (81), another senior deputy director of the Organization and Guidance Department who had supported Ko Young-hee alongside Ri Je-gang, died of a reported heart attack in April.


A North Korean source said, “In the 1970s, Kim Chang-bong, the then minister of national defense, died in a car accident after he opposed Kim Jong-il’s succession to power. We suspect that Ri’s death was also related to an internal power struggle, although there is no evidence yet to support the speculation.”

We may get a clearer picture of what’s going on soon, with Kim Jong-il holding an extraordinary meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly on June 7. Will Kim announce succession plans? Was the sinking of the Cheonan the last hurrah of a retiring man?

This article was posted: Friday, June 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

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