Lexicon of Conspiracy: Jang Sung-taek’s Chinese Execution Document

By | January 02, 2014 | No Comments

Jang Sung-taek in Pyongyang on November 6, 2013. Image via Chosun Central Television.

Jang Sung-taek in Pyongyang on November 6, 2013. | Image: Chosun Central Television.

What did Jang Sung-taek really do to merit his summary execution in North Korea? A careful translation of the Chinese version of his death sentence contains multiple clues, including Jang’s alleged involvement with defections of North Korean youth, the sharpened role of the Korean Workers’ Party as both the instrument of infiltration and subsequent revenge, and Jang Song-taek’s relationship with Kim Jong-il.

The Chinese version of the judgement — the first part of which is included below — also reveals slight but very interesting details about Kim Jong-un’s premature power consolidation, and precisely why the older man’s method of applause was so detrimental for his own political survival. Couched in language with which a Qin dynasty Legalist would be familiar, the document is laden with references to banditry as well as Confucian incongruities of Kim Jong-un giving “fatherly generosity” to a man more than twice his age.

Finally, the translation provides more clarity as to questions surrounding the scope of the purge. Was Jang largely working alone, or was this a wide-ranging conspiracy?  Even if Chinese analysts were hoping that Kim had “righted the tones with a single hammer blow,” Jang Sung-taek’s death sentence, as a document, seems to lean towards a somewhat wider scope. Clearly the answer to the question of the size of Jang’s “counterrevolutionary conspiracy” will have serious consequences as North Korean political culture staggers, exhorts, and consolidates (yet again) its way toward an April point of reckoning.

Rodong Sinmun,《朝鲜千万军民滔天愤怒的爆发国家安全保卫部特别军事法庭对张成泽判处并执行死刑》 [“The Heaven-Splitting Anger of Ten Million North Korean Soldiers and People Explodes; Ministry of State Security Special Military Court Tries Jang Sung-taek and Carries out Death Sentence” ], December 13, 2013. 

After the Korean People’s Army and people received the news of the expanded meeting of the Politburo of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, they demanded a strict judgment of the revolution against the anti-Party counter-revolutionary clique. As soaring hatred and thunderous anger shook the entire country [冲天的憎恶和愤怒震撼全国], the special military tribunal of the DPRK Ministry of State Security was held on December 12 against the traitor for all ages [千古逆贼], Jang Sung-taek.

Jang Sung-taek acted as as the boss of a modern day factional group [作为现代版宗派的头目],  having long-previously assembled impure elements as a faction with the ambition of usurping [篡夺] the supreme power of Party and State. Through all sorts of intrigues and base criminal methods, [he/it] committed massive and ugly crimes in trying to overthrow the national regime.

The Special Military Tribunal examined the crimes of the accused, Jang Sung-taek, and heard the facts of the case.

All 100% of the crimes committed by the accused were proved in the course of hearing and were admitted by him without holding anything back.

A verdict of the special military tribunal of the Ministry of State Security of the DPRK was read out at the trial.

Every letter and every line of the judgment [判决书的字字句句] served as a ferocious sledge-hammer blow brought down by our angry service personnel and people on the head of Jang, an anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional element and despicable political careerist and trickster.

This intolerably guilty traitor to the nation for all ages was the leader of anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership headquarters [首脑部] of our party and state and the socialist system.

Jang Song-taek early on received the deep political trust of Chairman Kim Il-sung and Secretary Kim Jong-il, and, by being appointed to responsible posts of the party and state, received more massive benevolence from the two Great Generals [两位大元帅] than any others from early on.

He, in particular, received even deeper trust from First Secretary Kim Jong-un, and was appointed to even higher posts than before.

But with regard to this, Jang Sung-taek was unworthy of the political trust and benevolence of the peerlessly great men of Mt. Paektu.

It is an elementary obligation of a human being to repay trust with sense of obligation and benevolence with loyalty.

However, despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such enormous trust and the warmest paternal love [深恩的栽培] shown by the party and the leader for him.

Although Jang Sung-taek had harbored dirty political ambition from early on, he dared not raise havoc [兴风作浪] when Chairman Kim Il Sung and Secretary Kim Jong Il were alive. Observing their words and gestures for clues [察言观色], Jang, nevertheless, behind the scenes, ‘was in the same bed with different dreams [同床异梦]’ and agreed in public but opposed in private [阳奉阴违].  When the historical turning point arrived for the succession of the revolution [到了革命的班交替的历史转折期], he thought that his opportunity had finally arrived, and began to lay bare his true colors.

When the day arrived for the unanimous will of all the Party, Army, and people to solve the very important issue by making Comrade Kim Jong-un into the sole successor [唯一接班人] of Secretary Kim Jong-il, Jang Sung-taek harbored ridiculous illusions, both openly and secretly obstructing the solving of the continuity of leadership; this was a heaven-rending great crime.

His cunning plot proved futile when the historical decision was made at the Third Conference of the WPK that Kim Jong-un would be elected vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea. When the news [of the succession] was proclaimed in reflection of the unanimous will of all party members, service personnel and people, making all participants break into boiling acclaim that shook the conference hall, he unwillingly stood up from his seat and coped by clapping, acting haughty and disrespectful [傲慢不恭], thereby touching off the towering resentment of our service personnel and people.

Jang confessed: At that time, his actions were not simple carelessness. He feared that if Comrade Kim Jong-un’s base for leading the army [领军基础] were consolidated, this would lay a massive stumbling block in the way of usurping the power of the party and state.

Then, after Kim Jong-il passed away too suddenly, and, unfortunately, too early [太早地不幸逝世], Jang Sung-taek began working to fully realize his long-premeditated political plot.

Jang Sung-taek used his regular accompanying of Comrade Kim Jong-un during field guidance as an opportunity,  trying to project, both in the DPRK and beyond, the fantasy image of himself as being neither above nor below that of the headquarters of the revolution.

In a bid to rally a group of reactionaries who would be used in the future by him for toppling [颠覆] the leadership of the party and state, Jang Sung-taek used crafty means, including using those who had been sacked or relieved of their posts after being severely punished for disobeying the teachings of Kim Jong-il. These [men] kowtowed to him, entering the organs of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party and work units under it.

When Jang Sung-taek was the person responsible for the section of youth work, on the principle that “villains will look after one another [沆瀣一气],” he colluded with enemies bribing [North Korean youth] into defection [叛变], and did serious harm to the youth movement in our country. Even after the Party exposed and purged these [men] by decisive measures of the party, Jang Sung-taek continued to hold on to this rump clique [余党], placing them in important posts of the party and state.

Source:The Heaven-Splitting Anger of Ten Million North Korean Soldiers and People Explodes; Ministry of State Security Special Military Court Tries Jang Sung-taek and Carries out Death Sentence”  [朝鲜千万军民滔天愤怒的爆发国家安全保卫部特别军事法庭对张成泽判处并执行死刑], Rodong Sinmun, December 13, 2013. Translation by Adam Cathcart.


This piece is published as part of a project documenting the cultural and political strategies used by the DPRK government to promote its policy agenda and create strategic discord abroad. This research is supported by an Academy of Korean Studies Grant (AKS-2013- R-11).

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  1. So the tale of the 150 ravenous dogs was just that, and not the final curtain call for his ‘heaven-rending great crime’.

  2. Some of these words were seen in the original North Korean address in Korean. I discussed the Four Character Idioms (四字成語) on my blog here: http://wp.me/p109f3-1Bu.

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