(UPDATE 2: Bump. Really, this is good stuff. Read it.)
(UPDATE: Lankov's book sold out last night before I could buy a copy. doesn't anyone know where I can buy a copy in Seoul?)
I posted yesterday that I was going to try to go to a lecture by Dr. Andrei Lankov on an attempt by some in the North Korean communist party to replace Kim Il-sung during a party conference in the summer of 1956. It was some fascinating stuff.
I think that summer was crucial for future developments in North Korea and the region. It was the last chance to replace Kim's more Stalinist than Stalin regime with a more normal communist government. Such a government might have been able to later reform like China or even develop genuine rapprochement with the South rather than the parasitic relationship we see today.
The bulk of the lecture is similar to the content of a web page I came across while doing some background research (the site used another Lankov book as its source). So, rather than reinvent the wheel and give myself CTS by typing all my notes, I'll just cut 'n paste. It's a little long for a blog entry but well worth the read, so read on brave seeker of truth!
Here you are (stolen stuff is in green):
Factions in the KWP
As the Korean Workers Party was a merger of different Communist organisations it was made up of four factions, the Soviet Koreans faction, the Domestic faction, the Yanan (or Chinese) faction and the Guerrilla faction. These factions were not based on ideology but on the biographies of its members.
- The Soviet Koreans, led first by Alexei Ivanovich Hagai and then by Pak Chang-ok were made up of waves of ethnic Koreans who were born or raised in Russia after their families moved there starting in the 1870s. Some of them had returned to Korea covertly as Communist operatives in the twenties and thirties but most were members of the Red Army or civilians who were stationed in North Korea following World War II to help the Red Army establish a Soviet satellite. Many came as translators or as Russian language instructors.
- The Domestic faction, led by Pak Hon-yong were Korean Communists who never left the country but engaged in a struggle against the Japanese occupation. Many members of the domestic faction had spent time in Japanese military prisons as a result of their activities.
- The Yanan faction, led first by Mu Chong and then by Kim Tu-bong and Choe Chang-ik, were those Korean exiles who had lived in China's Shanxi province and joined the Chinese Communist Party whose regional headquarters were at Yanan. They had formed their own party, the North-Chinese League for the Independence of Korea, and when they returned to North Korea from exile they formed the New People's Party which merged with the North Korean Communist Party to form the North Korean Workers Party. many members of the Yanan faction had fought in the Chinese 8th and New 4th Armies and thus had close relations with Mao Zedong.
- The Guerrilla faction, led by Kim Il-sung, was made up of former Korean guerillas who had been active in Manchuria after it was occupied by Japan in 1931. Many in this group ended up fleeing Manchuria, as their armed resistance was suppressed, and moved to the Soviet Union where many of them, including Kim, were drafted into the Red Army.
The factions were represented proportionately in the party's leading bodies. On the NKWP's first Politburo the Soviet faction had 3 members, the Yanan faction had 6, the domestic faction had 2 and the guerrilla faction had 2. The guerrilla faction was actually the smallest of the factions in the Central Committee but they had the advantage of having Kim Il-sung in the party and state's most senior positions (with the backing of the Soviet military). Initially the domestic faction was underrepresented as many members were allocated to the SKWP until the two parties merged .
Once the KWP was created there was a virtual parity between the four factions with the Yanan, Soviet and Domestic factions each having four representatives on the Politburo with the Guerrilla faction having three.
While Kim was the acknowledged leader he did not yet have absolute power since it was necessary to balance off the interests of the various factions. To eliminate any threats to his position, he first moved against individual leaders who were potential rivals. He drove from power Alexei Ivanovich Hagai (also known as Ho Ka-ai), leader of the Soviet faction first demoting him during the Korean War in 1951 and then using him as a scapegoat for slow repairs of a water reservoir bombed by the Americans to drive him from power (and to an alleged suicide) in 1953. In part, it was possible for Kim to do this because the intervention of "Chinese People's Volunteers" in the war reduced the influence of both the USSR and the Soviet faction and allowed Kim the room he needed to dispose of his main rival.
Kim also attacked the leadership of the Yanan faction. When the North Koreans were driven to the Chinese border, Kim needed a scapegoat to explain the military disaster and blamed Mu Chong, a leader of the Yanan faction and also a leader of the North Korean military. Mu Chong and a number of other military leaders were expelled from the party and Mu was forced to return to China where he spent the rest of his life. Kim also removed Pak Il-u the Minister of the Interior and reputedly the personal representative of Mao Zedong.
The sacking of Hegai, Mu and Pak reduced the influence of the Chinese and Soviet factions but Kim could not yet launch an all out assault on these factions because he would risk the intervention of Moscow and Beijing when he was still dependent on their support.
Purge of the "Domestic faction"
As the Korean War drew to a close, he first moved against the Domestic faction. While the Soviet faction had the sponsorship of the Soviet Union and the Yanan faction was backed by China the Domestic faction had no external sponsor who would come to their aid and was therefore in the weakest position. With the end of the Korean War the usefulness of the Domestic faction in running guerilla and spy networks in South Korea came to an end. Former leaders of the South Korean Workers Party were attacked at a December 1952 Central Committee meeting. In early 1953 rumours were spread that the "southerners" had been planning a coup. This led to the arrest and removal from power of Pak Hon-yong (who was foreign minister at the time) and Yi Sung-yopo the minister of "state control" who was charged with "spying on behalf of the United States".
In August 1953, following the signing of the armistice that formally ended the Korean War, Yi and eleven other leaders of the domestic faction were subjected to a show trial on charges of planning a military coup and sentenced to death. In 1955, Pak Hon-yong, the former leader of the SKWP and deputy chairman of the KWP of the was put on trial on charges of having been a US agent since 1939, sabotage, assassination and planning a coup and was sentenced to death though it is unclear if he was shot immediately or if his execution occurred some time in 1956.
The trials of Yi and Pak were accompanied by the arrest of other members and activists of the former SKWP with defendants being executed or sent to forced labour in the countryside. The domestic faction was virtually wiped out, though a few individual members who had personally allied themselves to Kim Il-sung remained in positions of influence for several more years.
The "August Incident" and aftermath
Kim sent out preliminary signals in late 1955 and early 1956 that he was preparing to move against the Yanan and Soviet factions. The Twentieth Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party was a bombshell with Nikita Khrushchev's Secret speech denouncing Stalin and the inauguration of destalinization. Throughout the Soviet bloc domestic Communist parties inaugurated campaigns against personality cults and the general secretaries who modelled themselves after Stalin were deposed throughout Eastern Europe.
Kim Il-sung was summoned to Moscow for six weeks in the summer of 1956 in order to receive a dressing down from Khrushchev who wished to bring North Korea in line with the new orthodoxy. During Kim's absence Pak Chang-ok (the new leader of the Soviet faction after the suicide of Ho Ka-ai), Choe Chang-ik, and other leading members of the Yanan faction devised a plan to attack Kim at the next plenum of the Central Committee and criticise him for not "correcting" his leadership methods, developing a personality cult, distorting the "Leninist principle of collective leadership" his "distortions of socialist legality" (i.e. using arbitrary arrest and executions) and use other Khrushchev-era criticisms of Stalinism against Kim's leadership.
Kim became aware of the plan upon his return from Moscow and responded by delaying the plenum by almost a month and using the additional time to prepare by bribing and coercing Central Committee members and planning a stage managed response. When the plenum finally opened on August 30 Choe Chang-ik made a speech attacking Kim for concentrating the power of the party and the state in his own hands as well as criticising the party line on industrialisation which ignored widespread starvation among the North Korean people. Yun Kong-hum attacked Kim for creating a "police regime". Kim's supporters heckled and berated the speakers rendering them almost inaudible and destroying their ability to persuade members. Kim's supporters accused the opposition of being "anti-Party" and moved to expel Yun from the party. Kim, in response, neutralised the attack on him by promising to inaugurate changes and moderate the regime, promises which were never kept. The majority in the committee voted to support Kim and also voted in favour of repressing the opposition expelling Choe and Pak from the Central Committee.
Several leaders of the Yunan faction fled to China to escape the purges that followed the August plenum while supporters of the Soviet faction and Yanan faction were rounded up. Though Kim Tu-bong, the leader of the Yanan faction and nominal President of North Korea was not directly involved in the attempt on Kim he was ultimately purged in 1958 accused of being the "mastermind" of the plot. Kim Tu-bong "disappeared" after his removal from power and likely was either executed or died in prison.
In September 1956 a joint Soviet-Chinese delegation went to Pyongyang to "instruct" Kim to cease any purge and reinstate the leaders of the Yanan and Soviet factions. A second plenum of the Central Committee, held on September 23, 1956, officially pardoned the leaders of the August opposition attempt and rehabilitated them but in 1957 the purges resumed and by 1958 the Yanan faction had ceased to exist. Members of the Soviet faction, meanwhile, facing increased harassment, decided to return to the Soviet Union in increasing numbers. By 1961 the only faction left was Kim's own guerrilla faction along with members who had joined the KWP under Kim's leadership and were loyal to him. In the 1961 Central Committee there were only two members of the Soviet faction, three members of the Yanan faction and three members of the Domestic faction left out of a total Central Committee membership of 68. These individuals were personally loyal to Kim and were trusted by him, however, by the late 1960s, even these individuals were almost all purged.
One likely reason for the failure of the Soviet and Yanan factions to depose Kim was the nationalist view by younger members of the party who had joined since 1950 that the members of these factions were "foreigners" influenced by alien powers while Kim was seen as a true Korean.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear
One more thing. Kim Il-sung and his buddies were installed into power by the Soviets. Don't let any revisionists historians get away with telling you otherwise.
Kim arrive in Korea from Siberia on September 19, 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender. He and about 40 supporters and their families were delivered to Wosan Habor by the Soviet warship Pukachev. He had been a guerrilia fighter against the Japanese until his defeat by Japanese forces in 1941. He then fled to the Soviet Union.
There is no knowing if he could have seized power without Soviet backing, but it is clear that he was a turtle on a fence post placed there by the Soviets.