Far be it from me to act as a mouthpiece for North Korea's ruling party. But the extraordinary language of the official communiqué published Monday, announcing the purge of one of the country’s key leaders, is worth noting – and quoting.
Nobody outside Pyongyang talks like this anymore. The last place where we heard this sort of language was China, but Beijing dropped it decades ago. The hyperbolic, jargon-laced rant might sound laughable to Western ears. But the implications for the chief victim, Jang Song-thaek, are dire when you think of what happened to those who fell afoul of the North Korean propagandists’ stylistic forebears.
The statement carries chilling echoes of Cultural Revolution-era China and the Stalinist Soviet Union during the 1930s show trials.
Not since those dark days have we heard such a denunciation of “alien elements who had made their way into the party … gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party … giving up the class struggle and paralyzing the function of popular democratic dictatorship,” as North Korea’s official news agency published Monday.
Jang Song-thaek is uncle to the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, by virtue of having married Kim Jong-il’s sister. He has acted as virtual regent for the untested leader over the past two years and was thought to be his key adviser. His dramatic fall – arrested at the meeting that denounced him and led from the hall – poses as many questions as answers about the future of the “hermit kingdom.”
It recalls the fate of Communist leaders from other epochs and other countries; Grigory Zinoviev, for example, a comrade of Joseph Stalin, subjected to the first Moscow show trial in 1936 on trumped-up charges of plotting against the government, and shot as soon as he was convicted.
Or Liu Shaoqi, then president of China, denounced by Maoist Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution as a “renegade, hidden traitor and scab … a sham Marxist and political swindler,” who died in jail in 1969 after two years of torture.
Pyongyang’s denunciation of Mr. Jang falls squarely within the tradition of that political-literary style. Here are a few of the more striking passages, as they appeared in a Korea Central News Agency dispatch:
The entire party, whole army and all people are dynamically advancing toward the final victory in the drive for the building of a thriving nation, meeting all challenges of history and resolutely foiling the desperate moves of the enemies of the revolution under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. Such situation urgently calls for consolidating as firm as a rock the single-minded unity of the party and the revolutionary ranks with Kim Jong Un as its unitary centre and more thoroughly establishing the monolithic leadership system of the party.
The Jang Song Thaek group, however, committed such anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts as gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party and disturbing the work for establishing the party unitary leadership system.
Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scene.
Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life.
By abusing his power, he was engrossed in irregularities and corruption, had improper relations with several women and was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants.
Ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going, he used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while he was receiving medical treatment in a foreign country under the care of the party.
Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution.