North Korean state media says Kim Jong Un’s uncle has been executed, calling the leader’s former mentor “worse than a dog”.
The news comes days after Pyongyang announced Jang Song Thaek had been removed from all his posts because of claims of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanising and a “dissolute and depraved life”.
Jang was considered the second most powerful official in the North. He was seen as helping Kim Jong Un consolidate power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. Jang was the latest and most significant in a series of personnel reshuffles Kim has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power.
Jang was executed yesterday shortly after a special military trial, according to state news agency, KCNA.
Analysts say the young leader’s tightening grip on power may be welcomed by China, which prizes stability in its wayward nuclear-armed ally.
As well as a key kingmaker in Jong-un’s rise to power, Jang was responsible for much of North Korea’s dialogue with its neighbour and ally. The 67-year-old had accompanied Kim’s father and predecessor Kim Jong-Il on three trips to China in 2010 and 2011 and is known to have led the country’s Commission for Joint Venture and Investment tasked with attracting foreign investments — mostly from China.
He was the first high-level party official to visit China after the younger Kim took power in Dec 2011.
Jang was in charge of the North’s mineral exports — which account for more than half its outbound trade with China — and has been accused of selling iron at overly cheap prices.
In the two years since the death of Kim Jong-Il, at least four of the seven leaders who joined the younger Kim in marching alongside his father’s hearse — dubbed the “Gang of Seven” by South Korean media — have reportedly been sidelined, with further military and political purges likely.
“In a sense, the Chinese interlocutors in the core North Korean leadership just evaporated,” said Jingdong Yuan, a University of Sydney professor specialising in Chinese defence and foreign policy. “Now, who will be intermediary between Beijing and Pyongyang?”
China has shied away from extensive comment on Jang’s sacking, with Beijing’s foreign ministry describing it as “an internal affair”.
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