'North Korean leader cracking down on dissent'
SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea's new young leader is using an imminent rocket launch to bolster his prestige internally and crack down on dissent amid signs the transition of power is not going as smoothly as planned, a top South Korean official said on Friday.
The isolated North is to launch a rocket carrying what it says is a satellite between Dec. 10-22 in a move that has been condemned by the United States, South Korea and Japan as they believe it is designed to test technology for a long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011 after the death of his father and initial signs that he was willing to open the economy have given way to fears of a crackdown.
Kim himself warned of the danger of "rebellious elements" in North Korean society last month and recently met the country's top law enforcement officials. "There is a large-scale witch-hunt going on," a senior official in South Korea's presidential office said.