A former North Korean military lieutenant who defected to China says there were deep tensions in the Korean People’s Army before Kim Jong-un’s takeover.
The alleged split over who was preferred to run the military could be a factor behind the rogue state’s increasingly hostile rhetoric.
First Lieutenant Kim, a 42-year-old who would not give his first name to a Telegraph reporter, told the newspaper that fights occurred in his unit shortly after Kim Jong-il’s death in 2011.
Kim said he shot and killed a three-star company commander -- the head of a faction supporting Kim Jong-un – before escaping the country.
"It was before [Kim Jong-un] came to power, but we all knew for a long time that he was going to be made the leader,” Kim told The Telegraph. “There were a lot of people who were against him. But everyone in that faction got arrested after he came to power.”
The defector said his group supported Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s 85-year-old president, to take control of the military.
Divisions within the military, and the desire for Kim Jong-un to consolidate his power, may be a reason behind North Korea’s recent wave of threats, The Telegraph reports.
Daily NK, a South Korea-based news website that has a network of informants in the North, said in a report that tensions are also developing within Kim Jong-un’s army over food.
A source told the website that on March 25, a North Korean soldier gunned down five company commanders in North Hamkyung Province after he was given a meager portion of food and was caught stealing more. The soldier was reportedly arrested while trying to flee the country.