Is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un losing his grip on power?
Getting a clear picture of the state of affairs for the notoriously opaque regime is nearly impossible, but with a spate of high-profile executions, and an increasingly erratic approach to his role, longtime watchers of the situation are questioning whether or not Kim continues to maintain an iron grip on the country.
In fact, those who track the regime are increasingly suggesting that his brutal efforts to project control might end up hastening the disintegration of his regime.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has traveled to the reclusive country many times as an international negotiator, sees a challenging path forward for the young leader.
“I think it shows some instability in Kim Jong-Un’s regime that he’s being challenged, that he’s got serious opposition especially within the military,” Richardson told CNN. “I think he’s putting himself in a situation that he’s not only going to be challenged again and again, but that he’s going to create some internal opposition that in the end could topple him.”
South Korean intelligence says Kim ordered the executions of 15 senior officials within the regime this year alone, and may have ordered the execution of the country’s defense minister this week for disobedience.
This follows the high-profile execution of his uncle and one-time political mentor Jang Song Thaek in 2013.
“What we’re seeing now among his own people in both the party and in the military structure, he’s clearly having problems because he keeps executing them,” said Victor Cha with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s been four years that we’ve been in this leadership transition, and a transition that lasts four years isn’t a transition any more. It means that there’s something seriously wrong.”