Huanqiu on Kim Jong-un’s “Hammer Blow”

By | December 18, 2013 | No Comments


“Political stability in N.Korea benefits all,” Global Times’ English reply to the Jang purge pointed out. While far from supportive, the original Chinese version was noticeably different. | Image: KCNA

The Global Times’ initial response to the execution of Jang Sung-taek looked like an even-handed and even somewhat predictable response to North Korea’s actions. (Entitled “Political stability in N.Korea benefits all,” its general message could hardly be mistaken.) But, as ever, the Global Times’ English editorials are essentially different essays from the Chinese originals upon which they are roughly based. Thus, the Chinese version of this arguably consequential editorial speaks rather differently.

In the English version, much potentially productive analytical material, statements, and warnings for North Korea are left aside in favor of unassailably bland bromides.

Themes cut from the English version include:

– The possibility that the purge of “the Jang clique” is already complete and will not be widespread.

– Chinese analysis that a “youth movement” could be afoot in North Korea’s foreign policy (with, implicitly, the potential for the removal of the current DPRK ambassador in Beijing).

– A few undisguised jabs directed at the DPRK, followed by conveyance of North Korean complaints that the PRC is not regulating its public marketplace for commentary about the “special relationship.”

– Explicit acknowledgement of the possibility of further China-DPRK friction in various areas.

These elements in the Chinese version of the editorial have now been restored via the following Sino-NK re-translation.  For clarity, material appearing in English for the first time (or in cases where a change in tense or poor translation has altered the meaning) is underlined.

“Hoping the Acute Internal Political Situation Can Lead to DPRK’s Ultimate Stability” 希望内部政治尖锐的朝鲜终能稳定, Huanqiu Shibao, December 14, 2013.

Pyongyang official media announced Friday that Jang Sung-taek had already been executed on 12 December after a death sentence  by the DPRK National State Security Special Military Court. For the past few days, this news, like that of the same man having been sacked from his job, caused shock in the outside world.

The PRC Foreign Ministry said on Friday that this incident [这件事] is North Korea’s internal affair, and that China hopes the country remains politically stable.

South Korea, for its part, has also expressed its “concern” towards North Korean situation. The apparent influence of the execution of Jang Song-taek appears to be limited within North Korea, and has not implicated [i.e., “dragged in”] the situation in Northeast Asia [东北亚局势未受牵连]. 

The speed with which Jang Sung-taek was executed clearly shows that North Korea is experiencing/has experienced sharp struggle domestically.

From the outside, North Korea looks very politically backward [从外部看, 朝鲜的政治还很落后].

But this incident also clearly leaves the impression that Kim Jong-un has consolidated his absolute authority, and he has an absolute say, having “fixed the tones with a single hammer blow” [一錘定音].

China’s government has made the correct choice in basic strategy not to interfere in North Korea’s internal affairs, especially those concerning Pyongyang’s political power geometry [权力格局]; the Chinese side in particular must abide by this principle. But there is no doubt that a large number of Chinese citizens will oppose the misfortunate [变故] recent methods of the DPRK.

Naturally, Chinese society has diversified from early on, so it is impossible for the Chinese government to coordinate the attitudes of the entirety of Chinese society towards North Korea [不可能协调全社会对朝鲜的态度].

Of course, the negative public debate over the impressions of recent events left by Pyongyang  has the potential for creating restrictions [牵制] on Sino-North Korean relations at the daily level going forward.

North Korea has said that the reasons [for the execution] can be understood, and that while events could possibly give rise to comparatively angry voices of the Chinese people, they hoped that China could exert more control over the public. The diversification of Chinese opinion of Pyongyang may not be well understood [by North Korea].

Apart from this, Pyongyang also hopes to gain absolute support from Beijing, which China can in no way do without “giving less than is anticipated [打折扣].”

Developing friendly relations makes strategic sense for both China and the DPRK, but there are multiple opportunities for frictions to break out between the two countries [发生摩擦的机会也不少], especially in the instance of the current divide between China and North Korea over the nuclear issue.

Source: Hoping the Acute Internal Political Situation Can Lead to DPRK’s Ultimate Stability” [希望内部政治尖锐的朝鲜终能稳定], Huanqiu Shibao, December 14, 2013. Translation by Adam Cathcart, with assistance from Morgan Potts.

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