As South Korean president, Park Geun-hye approved a covert plan to oust North Korean leader Kim Jong Un--including assassination--and to cover Seoul’s tracks, Asahi cited a source as saying on Monday.
The plan was floated when the conservative Park was growing increasingly frustrated and taking a more confrontational stance against the northern neighbor, according to the source knowledgeable about policy toward North Korea during Park’s administration.
A land mine explosion near the demilitarized zone in August 2015 injured two South Korean soldiers and heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But marathon talks between officials of the two sides avoided a full-blown military confrontation.
However, when US President Barack Obama met with Park in October 2015, he again stressed that Washington would only enter dialogue with Pyongyang if it had taken steps toward denuclearization.
That stance, in turn, led Seoul to reconsider its plans for dialogue and shift toward a more adversarial relationship with North Korea.
After a meeting of officials from the two Koreas ended on a negative note in December 2015, Park signed a document that gave the green light for a “leadership change” in North Korea. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) was put in charge of the policy.
Although details of the actual plan are sketchy, the options included Kim’s retirement, political exile or even assassination, the source said.
Careful planning was conducted to cover any trace of Seoul’s hand in such operations because a change in North Korean leadership that had even an inkling of South Korean involvement would likely lead to military retaliation, the source said.
The plotters apparently considered staging an “accident” on the road or over water to eliminate Kim, but tight security prevented any mission from being carried out, the source said.
Park was further infuriated by North Korea’s nuclear tests in January and September 2016, and she began to publicly criticize Kim in her speeches.
But she also emphasized that she did not view the North Korean populace as the enemy.
In a speech given in August 2016, she called out directly to North Korean government officials and the general population for a unification of the two Koreas. Two months later, she urged North Korean citizens to defect from their nation.
Another source said Park’s moves were an attempt to spur a “palace revolution” among those in high-ranking positions close to Kim.
Sources said plans to bring down Kim were also pushed forward by NIS reports that described an unstable North Korean society suffering from power and water shortages as well as the rule of a paranoid leader fearful of an attack on himself.
Those reports apparently led to the belief that a leadership change was possible in North Korea.
That may have led the NIS to funnel such intelligence reports to the president, while ignoring analyses of other officials that painted a picture of a stable North Korean economy helped through the partial introduction of capitalist economic measures as well as a unified leadership structure under Kim that would make a regime change very difficult.