Hwang Pyong-so breaches Supreme Leader’s authority, again

Saturday 4th October, 2014

When Hwang Pyong-so arrived at Incheon Airport on October 4, he was accompanied by bodyguards wearing earpieces for communications with each other. Strange and unfamiliar as it may sound for outside observers, Hwang committed an act that is in fundamental violation of North Korea’s power principle: the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader.

In North Korea, where configurations of power have been upheld on the basis of the Supreme Leader’s absolute authority, it is strictly forbidden for there to be a “second or third most powerful person”. No official other than the Supreme Leader has the right to visible protection.

In terms of the director of the General Political Bureau, the office representing the North Korea’s military, one visible bodyguard was allowed. Nevertheless, that protection had to be referred to as serving the function of a “military secretary” or “military assistant”.

In this way, any security arrangement that might give someone the weight of being the second or third most powerful was strictly forbidden, with only the Supreme Leader permitted the right to visible protection.

That Hwang Pyong-so appeared in Incheon Airport accompanied by bodyguards – and not in military uniform either – is a clear surface confirmation that the “Supreme Leader’s absolute authority” no longer serves, in practice, as the unchallengeable pivot for North Korea’s elite power holders. A transformed psychology of power among the core elite in the OGD and beyond have been entrenched to the extent that the Supreme Leader’s exclusive right to public protections can be called on with impunity.

Earlier this year, New Focus reported that the core members of the OGD moved out of Changgwang-dong, where many Central Party cadres are concentrated, and moved into a special zone in the security jurisdiction of the Guards Command.


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