By Juno Kuttigranchu
|North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un|
HONG KONG/SEOUL (Rueters) – A statement from a recent top-level North Korean defector claims that the reclusive nation’s leadership has begun researching a radical new weapon which has the potential to create havoc in nations like Japan, South Korea and even China.
According to Pyongyang-watchers here, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has become highly insecure in his position, even after having his uncle Jang Song Thaek executed recently for threatening his power. “Kim is poised between the military, on one hand, which wants to protect its position, and reformers backed by China on the other,” one expert on the Kim dynasty told this agency. “If he chooses the military, he risks angering his only remaining backer, China, and with the North Korean economy at a vulnerable state, he can’t risk that. But if he ditches the military, a coup d’état is not just possible, it’s almost certain, especially since the army’s upper ranks are filled with officers loyal to his father and grandfather who already blame him in private for diverging from their vision.”
Professor Won Hung Lo of the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul told this writer that Kim is considering a desperate throw of the dice in order to save his power. “He thinks that if he can manage to throw the neighbouring nations, especially Japan and South Korea, into total chaos, he can claim that North Korea is much better off in comparison, and the worse things get elsewhere, the better he will look.
“Kim is aware that he cannot possibly risk open war,” Professor Won continued. “Even if he could trust his military to carry out his orders, which he cannot, the North Korean army is incapable of winning a war. It can cause damage to South Korea as far as Seoul by heavy artillery barrages, and might conceivably hit Japan with a couple of ballistic missiles. But the response will be overwhelming, and he knows that as well. His tiny nuclear arsenal won’t be able to save him then.”
Professor Won also said that Kim cannot send commando units across the border to commit acts of sabotage like his grandfather had on many occasions. “The damage these units could do would be strictly limited, and easily discoverable,” he said. “Also, they would inevitably infuriate China, which is now closely engaged with the South Korean economy and does not wish any kind of disruption in business. So Kim has to look for another route to achieve his goal – something which can’t be traced back to him, but which can cause widespread destruction nevertheless.”
This writer was then given access to a statement made by a recent top-level North Korean defector, who claims the North Korean regime has started serious research into creating a “zombie virus” intended to cause extreme and uncontrollable aggression in anyone infected with it. According to the defector, Kim first got the idea from the zombie movies of George Romero. It is not generally known that Kim has always been a Romero fan, and is also an avid reader of zombie fiction.
“Research is continuing in underground laboratories near the city of Hungnam,” the defector stated, in the transcript made available to this agency, “under the direction of Major General Ho Li Kaw. Ho, who has a PhD in biotechnology from Beijing University, is known to be experimenting with different strains of viruses derived from bioengineering rabies and Ebola.
“Ebola,” the report said, “is extremely virulent and spreads with extreme rapidity. Rabies, on the other hand, causes a severe encephalitis and in most animals like dogs results in highly aggressive behaviour. What Ho is aiming for is a combination of the traits of both in one virus, which could then be introduced into a target nation and cause nationwide chaos and breakdown.”
|In this 2012 file photo, Major General Ho is seen second from left with other officers and Kim Jong Un (right)|
According to the defector, General Ho has already produced several different versions of the virus and has been trying it in test subjects obtained from labour camps, with varying but encouraging levels of success. “A few strains worked extremely well, but killed the test subject in too short a time to spread the infection far. A couple of strains proved more durable, but the aggression produced was too low to be of much utility. However, recently Ho is known to have achieved considerable success with two strains which combine high aggression with reasonably good survival of infected subjects. He is now working to refine these strains.”
The defector claimed that he had heard that, on the special orders of Kim, the subjects these tests were being carried out on were Jang Song Thaek’s relatives. “Kim is extraordinarily vindictive towards Jang,” he stated. “When he heard that there was a rumour in the West that he had had Jang fed to 120 hungry dogs, he expressed regret that he hadn’t thought of it himself.”
If the experiments being carried out by Ho are successful, North Korea will almost certainly seek to infiltrate infected subjects into South Korea and Japan – as well as possibly China – via midget submarine. “North Korea has a large and extremely capable midget submarine fleet,” Professor Wong said in Seoul. “Yono Class midget submarines can operate undetected in very shallow water, and can be used to approach the South Korean shore very closely at night. Spies, saboteurs, or in this case infected individuals can then be put ashore by rubber boats. Long before they are discovered by the authorities, the submarine will have slipped away.”
|Illustration of a Yono Class midget submarine|
“The consequences of any such ‘zombie’ attack would be extremely grave,” a South Korean military official told this agency, speaking on condition of anonymity since he was not authorised to interact with foreign media. “North Koreans look like us, speak the same language, and are indistinguishable in all particulars. If a couple of dozen infected individuals were put ashore in this country at widely separated points, we could not possibly neutralise them before they started attacking people who in turn attacked others, starting an epidemic. And we could, of course, never prove that Kim was behind the attack.” Asked about what his government planned to do to counter the threat, he refused to elaborate.
But it is significant that zombie movies have disappeared from the DVD shops of Seoul.