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

Gus Lubin | Jun. 4, 2010, 10:30 AM ri je-gang

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?

Read more:


MAP OF THE DAY: How North Korean Artillery Could Level Seoul In Two Hours
Read more:

North Korea has the world's largest artillery force

And they're all aimed at Seoul

Most artillery sites won't reach Seoul... but at least 17 larger guns will

Most artillery sites won't reach Seoul... but at least 17 larger guns will

NK artillery site can be hard to detect

There could be secret sites in the DMZ

You also have to watch out for tunnels through the DMZ

NK might lead with an electro magnetic pulse

Knocking out missile defense

And setting up for a nuclear attack

Meanwhile, NK has tons of AA guns

Pyongyang is a fortress