​‘A lot of money rides on constant promotion of North Korean threat’

Reuters/Jason Lee
With so little reliable information on the backroom politics in N. Korea, Seoul government benefits from the media speculations about its neighbor, which helps it justify soaring defense budget, James Corbett, editor of the Corbett report, told RT.

Reports surfaced earlier this week from sources in South Korean intelligence, that Hyon Yong Chol, North Korea’s former defense minister, was executed by an anti-aircraft gun after being accused of treason. Hyon was allegedly seen nodding off at a meeting organized by Kim Jong-un, although it was not clear if this incident alone led to his reported execution.

RT: The North Korean leader reportedly executed the top official for falling asleep at an important event; do you believe that is possible?

James Corbett: Well, almost anything is possible when it comes to speculating about what’s happening in Pyongyang because so little information does come out except what comes out though the official approved, sanitized government state media sources. So it really is a lot of scouring tea leaves in looking at things like this, but we do know that in the North Korean government there are a lot of chair changes that are going on behind the scenes at all times and in-fact since Kim Jong-un came into power a few years ago we’ve seen almost half of the senior officials in the north Korean government change not in such a dramatic fashion but being changed. So it is certainly possible that any sort of pretext would be used for that including sleeping at a public event or something of that sort. Again, there is always the implication that there is a lot of backroom politics that are taking place that we’re not party to.

RT:Just to continue on that point, we’ve seen stories before of course that later appeared to be false, such as the North Korean leader’s Uncle being fed to dogs, I’m sure you remember that one. Do you believe that there is any bias here in the coverage of North Korea and its leaders?

JC: There absolutely is a bias; I think a demonstrable one that is fed into the fact that the North Korean government plays their cards so close to their vests. So it does require a certain amount of speculation to figure out what’s happening there, but this is exasperated by South Korean media, analysts and others, a sort of cottage industry that has sprung up trying to figure out what’s going on behind the scenes, but perhaps the single most important factor is that the South Korean government relies on this steady stream of information showing that North Korea may be on the verge of collapse or may be an imminent threat. Obviously the Korean Peninsula is still at a state of war, and in-fact just three weeks ago, just before this incident was announced, the South Korean government has indicated its going to be spending, increasing its defense budget by over $200 billion over the next five years, that’s an annual increase of over 7 percent of their current budget. That’s an incredible expenditure and of course the reason that they cited for this increase in expenditure is the threat from North Korea, so there’s a lot of money that rides on the constant promotion of this threat.

RT:The stories do seem to get more and more spectacular, what are the rumors of such atrocities based on do you think?

JC: Often there is a kernel of truth for example when we had that story about Kim Jong-un’s uncle being fed to dogs...the North Korean state media did confirm that he was supposedly executed but it didn’t say the manner of execution, so there’s usually some sort of kernel or germ of truth but then it gets amplified, twisted, changed. For example in that story the flourish about him being fed to a pack of dogs was apparently from Chinese social media that eventually got picked up in the regular media, so it seems to be like a game of telephone whispers that goes on and just seems to make this into almost a parody of the news of what’s coming out of North Korea, because people are primed to believe almost anything [of] what goes on there.

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