North Korea acknowledges purge of its de facto second-in-command

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, is followed by his uncle Jang Song Thaek, second from left, as he tours a museum last summer in Pyongyang, the capital.
(Wong Maye-E / Associated Press)

SEOUL -- After nearly a week of international rumors, the North Korean government acknowledged Monday that it had purged the country’s de facto second-in-command, who is the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un.

Declaring that Jang Sung Taek was “soaked with the capitalist lifestyle,” the Korea Central News Agency reported that he had been removed from all his posts and expelled from the governing Workers’ Party of Korea. Jang had been seen as a moderating influence on the young Kim.

North Korean state news outlets said the political bureau of the Workers’ Party met Saturday and “adopted a written decision to dismiss Jang from all of his positions, and release him from the party.” Kim reportedly attended the meeting as well.

South Korea’s state spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, reported last week that Jang appeared to have been overthrown, citing the recent public execution of two of his close confidants. The intelligence agency concluded that the executions couldn’t have taken place unless Jang, who held the position of vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, had lost his job.


In its report, KCNA said: “Jang Sung Taek’s gang has carried out anti-party, anti-revolutionary factional activities that undermine the party’s solidarity and sole-leadership system. Their crimes, which are anti-government and against the people, are enormously harmful.”

The government news service added that Jang had been “leading a corruptive life, abusing his power,” adding: “The criminal activities Jang Sung Taek and his followers have carried out is beyond imagination.”

Jang is the husband of Kim Kyung Hui, the only full sibling of the late leader Kim Jong Il. He held a position in the secretive family hierarchy tantamount to regent after Kim Jong Il died in December 2011, leaving the not-yet-30-year-old Kim Jong Un in charge.

On Saturday, North Korean state TV showed a version of a documentary on Kim Jong Un’s military trips; Jang had been removed from all scenes. Jang had appeared in a version that aired Oct. 28.



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