Fletcher in the News

The Moment North Korea’s Dictator Purged His No. 2 (Who is Also His Uncle): Professor Lee Weighs In

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Often described as secretive and closed to the world, North Korea produced an unprecedented political moment on state television as the uncle of dictator Kim Jong-un was grabbed from his seat at a party meeting and escorted out of the hall.

North Korea is no stranger to political purges. But what makes this one extraordinary is the publicity around it – and the image capturing the moment…

…“[The uncle] may have stepped over the line. He probably came across as arrogant, and this latest sensational footage – and yes, that is unprecedented – that is his [Kim Jong-un’s] way of saying: Look out, I’m the top dog,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston…

…Purges have happened regularly over the past 60 years in North Korea as a means of “instilling fear in would-be pretenders to the throne,” Mr. Lee said.

“The latest [purge] is noteworthy because the uncle has been considered de facto No. 2,” he added…

Read the full piece