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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has angrily defended his visit to North Korea, ahead of a basketball game to mark Kim Jong-un’s birthday.
In an interview with CNN, Dennis Rodman was asked if he would raise the issue of a US citizen jailed in North Korea.
Dennis Rodman responded with a rant that at one point appeared to point blame at the man, Kenneth Bae.
His visit has been criticized by rights groups, with Washington making it clear he does not represent the US.
His team of former NBA players will take on a North Korean team in an exhibition match later on Wednesday in Pyongyang.
Dennis Rodman says the match is to celebrate Kim Jong-un’s birthday, although his official birthday and age have not been confirmed.
It comes weeks after the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek, once seen as a major power in North Korea. His rapid and brutal purge has sparked concern over stability inside the country.
Dennis Rodman has angrily defended his visit to North Korea, ahead of a basketball game to mark Kim Jong-un’s birthday
Meanwhile, state news agency KCNA has announced that elections for North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament will be held on March 9 – something which could provide a hint of who the key players are in the wake of Jang Sung-taek’s execution.
This visit is Dennis Rodman’s fourth to North Korea. He has in the past described Kim Jong-un as a friend and says he is on a “basketball diplomacy” mission. He remains the highest-profile American to have met the young leader.
Dennis Rodman had been asked several times in the past whether he could use his relationship with Kim Jong-un to discuss Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in May 2013.
North Korea said that Kenneth Bae – described as both a tour operator and Christian missionary – had used his tourism business to plot sedition.
Asked again in the CNN interview, Dennis Rodman appeared to lose his cool, saying: “If you understand what Kenneth Bae did … Do you understand what he did in this country? … I would love to speak on this.”
Dennis Rodman’s visit was about opening “the door a little bit”, he said, even though the team would have “to go back to America and take the abuse”.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on Dennis Rodman’s remarks, but reiterated a call for North Korea to release Kenneth Bae – who is suffering from ill health – on humanitarian grounds.
Former NBA star Charles D. Smith, meanwhile, told the Associated Press news agency that he felt “remorse” for participating in the trip amid the backlash in the US.
“I feel a lot of remorse for the guys because we are doing something positive, but it’s a lot bigger than us. We are not naive, we understand why things are being portrayed the way they are.”
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Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has arrived in North Korea along with a team for a match marking leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday.
Dennis Rodman, 52, and the team of former NBA players flew from Beijing on Monday ahead of Wednesday’s match.
The sportsman said his aim was to “connect two countries”.
State Department officials have made it clear Dennis Rodman does not represent the US.
Dennis Rodman has also been strongly criticized for ignoring North Korea’s human rights abuses.
Dennis Rodman has arrived in North Korea along with a team for a match marking leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday
He last visited North Korea in December, shortly after the execution of Jang Sung-taek.
The fall of Kim Jong-un’s once-powerful uncle was seen as a major shake-up at the very top of Pyongyang’s elite.
On that visit, Dennis Rodman’s third, he did not meet Kim Jong-un, who is reported to be a basketball fan. He has met the young leader on his other two previous visits, however, and is the highest-profile American to have done so.
This time, Dennis Rodman leads a squad of players on a trip he is describing as “basketball diplomacy”. The squad will play a North Korean team in an exhibition match.
Dennis Rodman’s unprecedented access to North Korea’s young leader has drawn questions over the impact of his visits to a country criticized for its repressive system of brutal political prison camps.
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Kim Jong-un made his first public reference to the execution of his once-powerful uncle – Jang Sung-taek.
In a New Year message broadcast on state TV, Kim Jong-un said “resolute action” had strengthened the country’s unity.
North Korea announced on December 12 it had executed Jang Sung-taek after convicting him of “acts of treachery”.
The move raised concerns of instability in the secretive nuclear-armed country.
North Korea’s New Year messages are closely scrutinized by South Korea and other regional powers for clues to Pyongyang’s policy goals.
Kim Jong-un made his first public reference to the execution of Jang Sung-taek in his New Year message
Kim Jong-un said action to “eliminate factionalist fi**h” within the ruling Workers’ Party had bolstered the country’s unity “by 100 times”.
“Our party’s timely, accurate decision to purge the anti-party, anti-revolutionary elements helped greatly cement solidarity within our party,” he said.
Kim Jong-un also accused South Korea and US of being “warmongers”, working “frantically” to bring nuclear weapons to the peninsula.
An accidental conflict, Kim Jong-un said, could trigger “an enormous nuclear catastrophe”.
He called for the strengthening of North Korea’s defense capabilities, adding that the country’s dignity and the people’s happiness depend on “the gun barrel”.
Jang Sung-taek was married to the sister of late leader Kim Jong-il, and is believed to have mentored Kim Jong-un when he succeeded his father in 2011.
Although seen as the second-most important figure in the country, Jang Sung-taek was dramatically removed from a special party session by armed guards and stripped of all his titles.
The state news agency KCNA later said he had admitted at a military trial to trying to overthrow the state, and had been executed immediately.
Analysts said one theory for Jang Sung-taek ‘s downfall was that he was too keen an admirer of China’s economic reform.
Dennis Rodman is heading to North Korea for a five-day visit, where he will train the national basketball team.
The former basketball player has previously described his visits as “basketball diplomacy”, and called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un his “friend for life”.
The US State Department has stressed that Dennis Rodman is not representing the US government on this trip.
The visit comes weeks after Kim Jong-un’s uncle Jang Sung-taek was executed.
Dennis Rodman is heading to North Korea for a five-day visit
Speaking to reporters in Beijing before heading to North Korea, Dennis Rodman said politics had “nothing to do with [him]”.
“I’m just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun,” he told Reuters news agency.
Organizers of the trip say that Dennis Rodman will also arrange a friendship basketball match between North Korea and a group of former NBA players on January 8, to mark Kim Jong-un’s birthday.
Dennis Rodman remains the most high-profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since the leader took over after his father died in 2011.
He said that he spent time with Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju during his last visit in September, and said Kim had a baby daughter called Ju-ae.
US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Tuesday: “Dennis Rodman is not a representative of the US government in his trip to North Korea.”
“We need to focus on what’s really important here when it comes to North Korea… the brutality of the North Korean regime he’s going to meet.”
American citizen Kenneth Bae (known in North Korea as Pae Jun-ho) is detained in North Korea after being arrested in November 2012. He was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in May.
Dennis Rodman previously rejected calls to lobby for Kenneth Bae’s release.
“That’s not my job to ask about Kenneth Bae,” Dennis Rodman told reporters after his September visit.
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North Korea is commemorating its leader Kim Jong-il, two years after his death in 2011.
Images from Pyongyang showed ranks of thousands of officials at a ceremony to commemorate Kim Jong-il.
His son, Kim Jong-un, inherited the leadership after his death in 2011.
Last week he presided over the execution of Jang Sung-taek, his uncle and a powerful figure seen by outside observers as his mentor.
Jang Sung-taek was accused of multiple crimes, state media said, including forming a power base and attempting to overthrow the state.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Kim-moon described his execution as “very dramatic and surprising”.
North Korea is commemorating its leader Kim Jong-il, two years after his death in 2011
He urged regional nations “while they must be vigilantly and carefully watching the development of situation, not to take any premature actions”.
Residents laid flowers at monuments to both Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first leader.
Kim Jong-il, who ruled North Korea for almost two decades, died on December 17, 2011.
On Tuesday, his third son and chosen successor, Kim Jong-un, attended a ceremony to remember his father.
Kim Jong-un sat on the podium flanked by North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, and the head of the army.
“All our people and soldiers have struggled and achieved victory for the past two years by holding our great leader [Kim Jong-il] in high esteem,” Kim Yong-nam said in his speech.
On Monday thousands of North Korean soldiers lined up in front of the state mausoleum to pledge their allegiance to Kim Jong-un.
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South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has convened a meeting of security officials after the shock execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek.
Ahead of the meeting Park Geun-hye warned of possible “reckless provocations” by the North and called for increased border vigilance.
Last week’s execution of Jang Sung-taek left the region in a “grave and unpredictable” situation, she said.
Jang Sung-taek, a key figure in North Korea, was executed for allegedly planning a coup.
President Park Geun-hye has convened a meeting of security officials after the shock execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle
The move – together with the recall of a North Korean business team from China – prompted concerns that Jang Sung-taek’s associates were being purged as part of a campaign by Kim Jong-un to consolidate his power.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said he believed an “important change” was taking place inside North Korea.
China – which in state media has called for Kim Jong-un to visit Beijing – was “closely watching” the situation, Wang Yi said.
“Given the latest development in the North, it is uncertain in what direction its political situation would evolve,” Park Geun-hye said early on Monday.
“We also can’t rule out the possibility of contingencies such as reckless provocations,” she added.
President Park Geun-hye later met her foreign affairs and security officials in a specially convened session to discuss events in the North.
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Jang Sung-taek’s execution will not alter North Korea’s economic goals, an official said.
Jang Sung-taek, uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, had been building trade with China before his removal led to speculation a drive to attract foreign cash will end.
Foreign investment is seen as crucial to North Korea’s fragile economy.
Kim Kyong-hui, Jang Sung-taek’s wife and Kim Jong-un’s aunt, was meanwhile named on a state committee – signaling she remains safe within the ruling dynasty.
Jang Sung-taek had been one of North Korea’s most powerful officials and a key architect of the country’s economic policies.
Kim Jong-un touring the Masik-Ryong ski resort
His execution last week and the recall of a North Korea business team from China, prompted concerns that his associates were being purged as part of a campaign by Kim Jong-un to consolidate his power.
It also led to fears for the stability of the nuclear-armed state.
But Yun Yong Sok, a senior member of the state economic development committee, told the Associated Press news agency that North Korea’s trade goals were unaffected.
“Even though Jang Sung-taek’s group caused great harm to our economy, there will be no change at all in the economic policy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he said.
“It’s just the same as before.”
North Korea last month announced plans to create provincial economic zones offering incentives for foreign tourism and investment.
Kim Kyong-hui, Jang Sung-taek’s widow and the influential aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has been given a prestigious position, even after the execution of her husband on Thursday.
Kim Kyong-hui remains a part of the regime’s inner circle, even after the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the second most powerful man in North Korea.
Late on Saturday, North Korea named 67-year-old Kim Kyong-hui, daughter of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, as one of the funeral committee members for the ruling party, a prestigious position.
Kim Kyong-hui remains a part of the regime’s inner circle, even after the execution of Jang Sung-taek
Jang Sung-taek was executed just days before the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, the father of North Korea’s current ruler.
He had been executed for attempting to seize power and for driving the economy “into an uncontrollable catastrophe.”
North Korea will mark the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il on Tuesday.
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Just days after Jang Sung-taek’s execution, the North Korean business people have been recalled from China, says a South Korean report.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be purging associates of Jang Sung-taek, who was in charge of economic ties with China.
Kim Jong-un has been pictured by state media for the first time since the execution of his uncle Jang Sung-taek.
The South Korean government believes Kim Jong-un is trying to consolidate his power through a reign of terror.
The execution of Jang Sung-taek raised international concern about the stability of the nuclear-armed state.
North Korea has summoned back business people working out of the north-eastern Chinese cities of Shenyang and Dandong, sources told the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
They are in China to enhance bilateral trade and investment.
Kim Jong-un has been pictured by state media for the first time since the execution of his uncle Jang Sung-taek
Another source told the agency Pyongyang planned to bring all officials and staff home from China in stages.
It appeared to be a crackdown on those perceived as loyal to Jang Sung-taek, Yonhap said.
It could also be another sign that Jang Sung-taek’s downfall reflected discomfort at his enthusiasm for Chinese-style economic reform.
There have been other reports over recent days about officials being recalled to North Korea from abroad.
South Korean intelligence officials say two of Jang Sung-taek’s closest aides were executed last month, and analysts suggest the purging of such a high-profile figure is unlikely to take place without a “ripple effect” – a purge of others linked to them.
Kim Jong-un was pictured in photographs released by state media for the first time since the dramatic execution of Jang Sung-taek on Thursday following a military trial.
He was shown touring a military design institute, trailed by military officers, many taking notes. Among them was Kim Jong-un’s personal envoy, Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong-hae.
The pictures appeared designed to demonstrate Kim Jong-un’s continuing hold on power and “business as usual” for the North Korean leadership, said commentators.
The images will also be scrutinized for clues to Kim Jong-un’s inner circle, analysts say.
Among those pictured in the latest photographs are believed Hwang Pyong-so, vice departmental director of Party Central Committee (not in military uniform), Choe Ryong-hae, vice-marshal of the armed forces, and Jang Jong-nam, the nation’s new defense minister.
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Jang Sung-taek’s execution in North Korea has rekindled fears of instability in the secretive nuclear-armed state.
South Korean defense chief Kim Kawn-jin promised “heightened readiness” after the purge of Jang Sung-thaek.
Kim Kawn-jin said the execution could be seen as part of a “reign of terror” by the North Korean leader.
Jang Sung-taek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle, was executed for “acts of treachery” after appearing before a military trial.
Jang Sung-taek’s execution in North Korea has rekindled fears of instability in the secretive nuclear-armed state
He was dramatically removed from a special party session by armed guards earlier this week.
South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae warned that the purge could be followed by military moves from Pyongyang, including another nuclear test.
He told lawmakers that “the North usually curbs internal (agitation) through waging provocations externally”.
North Korea carried out its third nuclear test in February, to widespread international condemnation.
As tensions rose, Pyongyang threatened attacks on Japanese, South Korean and US military targets in the region.
China, North Korea’s ally and neighbor, described Jang Sung-taek’s execution as an “internal matter”.
“As a neighboring country, we hope for North Korea to maintain stability…” South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said.
Victor Cha, a former senior White House adviser on Asia, warned that Kim Jong-un’s purge could spread further than Jang Sung-taek.
“If he has to go as high as purging and then executing Chang, it tells you that everything’s not normal,” Victor Cha said.
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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.
Jang Sung-taek has been executed after being purged for acts of treachery
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]
North Korean state television KCNA has broadcast images of Jang Sung-taek – the once powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong-un – being removed from a meeting, confirming reports of his dismissal.
The dramatic images show Jang Sung-taek being escorted from a party session by uniformed guards.
The television accused Jang Sung-taek of forming factions against the state, corruption and “depraved” acts such as womanizing and drug abuse.
Analysts say such a public dismissal is unique and could signal a wider purge.
It is the biggest upheaval in North Korea’s leadership since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father Kim Jongil two years ago.
The KCNA state news agency said the decision was announced after a meeting of the ruling communist Korean Workers’ Party Politburo over the weekend.
News of Jang Sung-taek’s dismissal filtered out in South Korea last week along with reports that two of his close aides had been executed for corruption. It is unclear when these latest images date from.
Jang Sung-taek escorted from a party session by uniformed guards
The KCNA report accuses Jang Sung-taek of being part of a faction working against the North Korean state.
“Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scenes.”
It also accused Jang Sung-taek of offences such as financial mismanagement and selling off national resources for his personal gain, but it also denounced him for leading what it called “a dissolute and depraved life”.
“Ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going, he used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while he was receiving medical treatment in a foreign country under the care of the party,” the KCNA report said.
It added that Jang Sung-taek had “improper relations” with several women and “was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants”.
Such an official announcement detailing a leader’s alleged crimes is unique.
Almost overnight, Jang Sung-taek has morphed from uncle and mentor to North Korea’s young leader, to “anti-revolutionary” criminal outcast.
The move could be seen as the latest in a series of carefully calibrated moves to demonstrate Kim Jong-un’s control, yet another sign of his authority and an assertion of his independence.
Jang Sung-taek is reported to have been stripped of all his positions and expelled from the party.
On Saturday, North Korean state TV was also reported to have removed footage of Jang Sung-taek from a documentary.
North Korea has confirmed for the first time that Jang Sung-taek has been dismissed from his post.
Jang Sung-taek had committed “criminal acts”, according to the state-run KCNA news agency.
Kim Jong-un’s uncle was seen as an economic reformer and regularly handled talks with China, Pyongyang’s only major ally.
North Korea has confirmed for the first time that Jang Sung-taek has been dismissed from his post
Jang Sung-taek’s removal is the biggest upheaval in North Korea’s leadership since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father, analysts say.
Two of his close aides have been executed for corruption, according to earlier South Korean reports.
KCNA said the decision had come after a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party.
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North Korean state TV is reported to have removed footage of Jang Sung-taek – Kim Jong-un’s uncle and key aide – from a documentary, following reports that he has been dismissed.
South Korean news agency Yonhap said the original film about Kim Jong-un had already been broadcast nine times.
But when it aired again on Saturday, images of his uncle Jang Sung-taek, had been edited out, Yonhap reports.
On Tuesday South Korean intelligence said Jang Sung-taek, 67, had been removed.
Jang Sung-taek had held senior posts in the ruling communist Korean Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission, North Korea’s top military body.
Intelligence officials also said two of his close aides appeared to have been executed for corruption.
Jang Sung-taek had held senior posts in the ruling communist Korean Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said it has made the assessment based on information provided by multiple sources.
If confirmed, Jang Sung-taek’s removal would be the biggest upheaval in North Korea’s leadership since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father, analysts say.
Kim Jong-un took over after Kim Jong-il died in 2011.
Jang Sung-taek is married to the elder sister of Kim Jong-il.
He has often been pictured beside Kim Jong-un and was seen by some observers as the power behind the throne.
Despite his family ties to the leadership and senior status, Jang Sung-taek has been targeted by purges in the past.
In 2004, despite his place in the Kim family, Jang Sung-taek disappeared from public view.
One report at the time, citing South Korean intelligence, said Jang Sung-taek had been placed under house arrest.
Other reports suggested Jang Sung-taek had been sent for “re-education”. However, two years later Jang Sung-taek appeared to have been reinstated.
Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek, lost his position as vice-chairman of North Korea’s top military body, South Korean media reports say.
Citing South Korea’s intelligence agency, they say Jang Sung-taek, 67, has been removed from his post.
Two close aides were also executed for corruption, according to the reports.
If confirmed, Jang Sung-taek’s removal would be the biggest upheaval in North Korea’s leadership since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father, analysts say.
Kim Jong-un took over after his father Kim Jong-il died in 2011.
The latest reports emerged from an intelligence briefing given to South Korean lawmakers.
Jang Sung-taek lost his position as vice-chairman of North Korea’s top military body
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) made the assessment based on information provided by multiple sources, the South’s Yonhap news agency said.
It also quoted the intelligence service as saying two of Jang Sung-taek’s closest associates had been executed in public in late November.
However, the reports are difficult to verify, and South Korea’s spy agency has been proven wrong before. But if true, the development would mark a significant shift.
Jang Sung-taek, who is married to Kim Jong-il’s sister, was seen by some observers as the power behind the throne.
He climbed through the ranks of the secretive leadership of North Korea’s Korean Workers Party (KWP) in the 1970s. In 1992, he was elected to its Central Committee.
However, Jang Sung-taek has been targeted by purges in the past. In 2004, despite his place in the Kim family, he disappeared from public view.
One report at the time, citing South Korean intelligence, said Jang Sung-taek had been placed under house arrest. Others suggested he had been sent for “re-education”.
However, two years later Jang Sung-taek appears to have been reinstated. He was regarded as an economic reformer and a major influence on Kim Jong-un.
Jang Sung-taek held key positions in both the Communist Party and the National Defense Commission.