Asia Pacific

North Korea vows to kill former South leader Park 'any time, at any place'

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korea has issued standing orders for the execution of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her spy chief in response to what Pyongyang said was an aborted plot to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The official Korean Central News Agency said late Wednesday that the effective assassination decree was in response to an alleged plan by Park and her spy chief, Lee Byoung-ho, to commit “state-sponsored terrorism” targeting the country’s top leadership.

Park was ousted earlier this year in an influence-peddling scandal.

“We declare at home and abroad that we will impose the death penalty on traitor Park Geun-hye and ex-director of the puppet intelligence service … criminals of hideous state-sponsored terrorism who hatched and pressed for the heinous plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK,” the North’s Ministry of State Security, Ministry of People’s Security and its Central Public Prosecutors Office said in a statement carried by KCNA.

The statement said Park and Lee would face a “miserable dog’s death any time, at any place and by whatever methods from this moment.”

But in perhaps its most improbable demand, Pyongyang also urged Seoul to “hand over” Park, Lee and others involved “under international convention as they committed hideous state-sponsored terrorism against the supreme leadership of the DPRK.”

DPRK is the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It warned that a failure to comply with these demands would see the North “impose summary punishment without advance notice on those who organized, took part in or pursued the plot, under wartime law.”

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service dismissed “as groundless” the North’s allegation, adding that its “open threat” against South Korean citizens would not be tolerated, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The North’s statement did not specify how it had learned of the alleged plot, but cited a “revelation” as being the source of its information.

On Monday, the Asahi Shimbun daily, citing an anonymous source, reported that Park had approved a covert plan by the spy agency to oust Kim — including through a possible assassination — and to cover up any trace of Seoul’s involvement.

The North Korean statement closely mirrored the claims in that report, including that the plotters had apparently considered staging an “accident” to eliminate Kim.

“The villains even thought about disguising the operation as car or train accident, while calling for paying special attention so that their involvement would not be revealed, as they worried that the successful operation may spill over into armed conflict,” the KCNA statement said, adding that the plan was automatically scrapped when lawmakers impeached Park last December over a corruption scandal.

The former president is currently in detention in South Korea while on trial. Following months of massive protests, she was formally removed from office and arrested in March over the corruption scandal. She was indicted in April on bribery and other charges.

North Korean state media has a long history of vitriolic claims that are often directed at the U.S. and South Korea. On Tuesday, it likened U.S. President Donald Trump to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, characterizing Trump’s “America First” policy as “the American version of Nazism.”

In May, it accused the American and South Korean spy agencies of an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Kim involving biochemical weapons.

Since taking over as leader, Kim has ramped up the development of the country’s nuclear weapons program, including two atomic blasts and a spate of missile tests over the past 18 months.

Wednesday’s statement came ahead of Trump’s scheduled meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday and Friday in Washington. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are expected to be the primary focus of the talks.