40 years ago yesterday, Muammar al-Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, seized power from king Idris in the military coup d’état while the king was abroad. There was a parade to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Libyan Revolution in Tripoli, Libya on September 1.
There was a similar event in North Korea, but the difference is that the North Korean coup ended up in smoke.
It happened on August 30, 1956, and came to be known as the “August Sectarian Event.”
After the Korean War, Kim Il Sung began purging his political competitors such as Huh Ga Yee, who belonged to the Pro-Soviet Union Faction, which was backed by the Soviets and was created during the Japanese colonial period, in 1951. Lee Seung Yup was also purged from the South Chosun Workers’ Party in 1953 and Park Heon Young, who was the Vice-Chairman of the South Chosun Workers’ Party, was executed through a secret trial in 1955.
Despite these purges, the Yanan Faction, which had taken part in communist activities around Yanan, China with the supported Chinese communists, the Soviet Union Faction, and the Gapsan Faction, which was led by Kim Il Sung and seized power in the Northern part of the Korean Peninsula after liberation from Japanese colonial forces, still remained in 1956. At the time, the Yanan Faction and the Soviet Union Faction aligned themselves against Kim Il Sung’s Gapsan Faction in a domestic power struggle.
Their conflict stemmed from the economic planning strategy proposed by Kim Il Sung, which was to develop heavy industry first and then develop light industry and agriculture simultaneously.
The Yanan Faction, which had had a close relationship with the Chinese Communists originating during the Japanese colonial period, was opposed to Kim Il Sung’ economic plan and claimed that stabilization of people’s livelihood was the most urgent need.
Their criticisms against Kim Il Sung’s line erupted into a power struggle and the Soviet Faction’s backing escalated the struggle into a cutthroat competition.
Kim Il Sung led a North Korean delegation to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in Eastern Europe from June 1 to July 19, 1956, and during this time, the factions aligned against Kim Il Sung tried to remove him from power.
The Deputy Prime Minister Choi Chang Ik, a leading figure in the plot, the Director of the General Federation of Korean Trade Unions Seo Hwee, the Financial Minister Yoon Kong Heum, the Director of South Hwanghae Province Committee of the Party Koh Bong Ki, all from the Yanan Faction, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party Park Chang Ok, the Director of the Ministry of Construction Kim Seung Hwa, and the Director of the National Construction Committee Park Ui Wan, all from the Soviet Union Faction, along with other members of the South Chosun Workers’ Party organized a comprehensive united front against Kim Il Sung and his followers.
One group led by the Director of the Interior Lee Pil Gyu tried to launch official criticisms against Kim Il Sung in the Party and his policies while staging a simultaneous military coup d’état. The other group, led by the Soviet Faction planed to rely on support from the Soviet Union and criticisms within the Party.
They established a plan to discredit Kim Il Sung through criticisms in the General Meeting of the Party and Lee Pil Gyu prepared the forces that would participate in the military coup, including the Fourth Corps stationed in the vicinity of Pyongyang, the air defense battery in downtown Pyongyang and a mechanic’s unit for any emergency situation. (to be continued)