North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek, has been executed after being purged for “acts of treachery”, state media say.
Jang Sung-taek was dramatically removed from a Communist Party session by armed guards earlier this week.
It was the biggest upheaval since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father two years ago.
State news agency KCNA said Jang Sung-taek had admitted at a military trial on Thursday to attempting to overthrow the state, and was executed immediately.
Jang Sung-taek, who is thought to have mentored his nephew during the leadership transition from Kim Jong-il to his son Kim Jong-un in 2011, was “worse than a dog”, said the agency.
He had admitted abusing his positions of responsibility to form a faction against the state and to harboring his own political ambitions, it said in a lengthy and detailed report.
The White House said it could not independently verify the reports but had “no reason to doubt” them.
“If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region,” it said in a statement.
Jang Sung-taek – married to the elder Kim Jong-il’s sister – had held senior posts in the ruling party and the National Defense Commission, the North’s top military body.
He was frequently pictured alongside his nephew and seen by some observers as the power behind the throne.
But in early December, it emerged that he had been removed from his senior military position and that two of his aides had been executed.
Then on Monday, KCNA broadcast footage of him being removed from a party session by uniformed guards.
In a long report on Friday, KCNA described Jang Sung-taek as a “traitor” and “human scum”.
It said: “Chang dreamed such a foolish dream that once he seizes power by a base method, his despicable true colors as <<reformist>> known to the outside world would help his <<new government>> get <<recognized>> by foreign countries in a short span of time.”
KCNA also said Jang Sung-taek:
- Attempted to “overthrow the state”
- Transformed his department into “a ‘little kingdom'” and attempted to “trigger off discontent” within the army to mobilize a coup
- Took control of the “major economic fields of the country” and “schemed to drive the economy of the country and people’s living into an uncontrollable catastrophe”
- Committed corruption by transferring construction units to his contacts
- Committed irregularities related to a joint economic zone with China, Rason
- Was responsible for unpopular currency reforms in 2009. In December 2009 Pyongyang’s reported redenomination of the won knocked two zeros off the nominal value of each banknote.
Jang Sung-taek admitted his “crimes” in court and a death sentence was “immediately executed”, KCNA said.
Analysts say his fall from grace could be seen as the latest in a series of carefully calibrated moves to demonstrate Kim Jong-un’s authority and an assertion of his independence.
In August 2012, Jang Sung-taek made a high profile trip to China, where he met then-President Hu Jintao. The two sides later signed a raft of economic deals, including the development of two special economic zones: Rason, on North Korea’s east coast, and Hwanggumphyong, on the border with China.
As news of the purge emerged earlier this week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye warned the North was “carrying out a reign of terror” to reinforce Kim Jong-il’s position.
She said the volatile relationship between the two countries was likely to become “more unstable” as a result.
On Friday, South Korea’s military said it had tightened surveillance on Pyongyang, news agency Yonhap reported.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eyi-do said the government had “deep concerns” about the latest developments and was “watching the situation closely”.
Meanwhile, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said: “We will calmly monitor the situation while communicating with other countries and collect relevant information.”
Chinese state media reported on Jang Sung-taek’s execution, but there has been no official government response so far.
Who is Jang Sung-taek:
- Born 1946, he married Kim Jong-il’s sister in 1972
- Joined Korean Workers’ Party administrative ranks in 1970s
- Elected to Central Committee in 1992
- Sidelined in 2004, but rehabilitated in 2006
- 2011: Got top military post under Kim Jong-un
- November 2013: Dismissed from his position
- December 2013: Executed as a “traitor”[youtube rsiqP8eIA9o 650]