North Korean marshal may not have been quite ready to retire

**Posted by Phineas

Gee. And here I thought I was only joking when I said on Twitter that Marshal Ri Yong-ho’s retirement for “health reasons” meant a case of “sudden lead poisoning.”

Looks like it may not have been a joke:

A gunbattle broke out when the North Korean regime removed army chief Ri Yong-ho from office, leaving 20 to 30 soldiers dead, according to unconfirmed intelligence reports. Some intelligence analysts believe Ri, who has not been seen since his abrupt sacking earlier this week, was injured or killed in the confrontation.

According to government officials here, the gunbattle erupted when Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the People’s Army General Political Bureau, tried to detain Ri in the process of carrying out leader Kim Jong-un’s order to sack him. Guards protecting Ri, who is a vice marshal, apparently opened fire. “We cannot rule out the possibility that Ri was injured or even killed in the firefight,” said one source.

Guess that rules out the traditional gold watch…

Seriously, North Korea is such a tightly closed, controlled state prison camp that’s it’s almost impossible to decide what this means — if it really happened at all. It could be a sign of Kim III consolidating his grip on power by getting rid of rivals and of the resistance being nothing more that a goon squad showing loyalty to their boss, or a small crack hinting at larger fissures in the military. (It’s hard to imagine everyone was hunky-dory with an untried twenty-something taking over as Supreme Leader and Living God) Or it could just be random, murderous wackiness that means nothing in the long run, except to remind outsiders to be grateful they don’t live in North Korea.

Regardless, North Korea will bear watching, even if through a glass, darkly. It’s murderous wackiness could all too easily and all too suddenly turn deadly for the rest of us, too.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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