SEOUL, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A group of North Korean dissidents said Wednesday that under Kim Jong Un, North Korea's elite class is losing their privileges, a revelation that provides some insight into the defection of Pyongyang diplomat Thae Yong Ho.
North Korea has heightened surveillance of pedigreed families, including descendants of anti-Japanese guerrilla fighters, in the wake of high-profile defections, says Seoul-based North Korea Intellectual Solidarity.
But Kim has long harbored resentment against this core class of elites, according to the group.
The descendants of North Korea's first generation of patriots have typically led more lavish lifestyles than the rest of the population, under the patronage of Kim Il Sung.
The current leader resents the privileges they enjoy, the dissidents say.
The acrimonious feelings Kim Jong Un holds toward elites might have led to the exclusion of O Kuk Ryol, the former vice chairman of North Korea's National Defense Commission, from a meeting of Pyongyang's Politburo during the Seventh Party Congress, the group says.
Thae's recent defection is now serving as a catalyst for a massive "inspection" of second-generation members of the elite families.
Thae's father was an anti-Japanese guerrilla who fought alongside North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. Thae was in charge of public relations for Pyongyang's embassy in London when he defected with his family to South Korea.
Elite families are practically under house arrest.
O, the senior North Korean statesman, may be specifically targeted since Thae's defection because Thae's wife, O Hye Son, is a relative, the dissidents say.
North Korea has also been cracking down on its emerging class of wealthy merchants, South Korean news service Daily NK reported.
North Korean security agents, who have become accustomed to extorting money from the newly rich, often arrest uncooperative people on charges of espionage.
A North Korean source in Yanggang Province said more than 20 merchants in the border city of Hyesan have been arrested on trumped up charges.
Women merchants who refuse sexual advances of officials are also arrested, according to the source.