North Korea on Friday announced the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, calling the leader’s former mentor a traitor who tried to overthrow the state.
The announcement came only days after Pyongyang announced through state media that Jang Song Thaek — long considered the country’s No. 2 power — had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, and other violations.
The state news agency KCNA said a tribunal examined Jang’s crimes, including “attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.”
The report called him “a traitor to the nation” and “worse than a dog.”
Jang 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 that Kim has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power.
Some analysts see the purge as a sign of Kim Jong Un’s growing confidence, but there has also been fear in Seoul that the removal of such an important part of the North’s government — seen by outsiders as the leading supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms — could create dangerous instability or lead to a miscalculation or attack on the South.
Tensions are still high on the Korean Peninsula following a torrent of threats in March and April by Kim Jong Un’s government against Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, including vows of missile and nuclear strikes and warnings that Pyongyang would restart nuclear bomb fuel production.
Jang was married to Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il. He was earlier described by state media as “abusing his power,” being “engrossed in irregularities and corruption,” and taking drugs and squandering money at casinos while undergoing medical treatment in a foreign country.