UK & World News

  • 3 December 2013, 22:33

Kim Jong-Un's Uncle 'Disappears After Sacking'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's uncle - one of the country's most powerful men - has been ousted, according to South Korea's spy agency.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said it believed Jang Song Thaek has been removed as vice chairman of the North Korean National Defence Commission (NDC).

If true, the move would mark the most significant purge at the top of the North Korean leadership since Kim Jong-Un succeeded his late father Kim Jong-Il in December 2011.

According to the NIS, General Jang was "recently ousted from his position and two of his close confidantes - Ri Yong Ha and Jang Soo Kil - were publicly executed in mid November".

North Korean military personnel were notified of the executions, South Korean politician Jung Cheong Rae said, adding that GenJang, 67, had since "disappeared".

The husband of Kim Jong-Il's powerful sister, Kim Kyong Hui, GenJang was seen as instrumental in cementing his nephew's hold on power after his father's death.

He has been a frequent companion of Kim Jong-Un on his tours around the country, as he was for Kim Jong-Il.

Gen Jang was often referred to as the unofficial number two in the hierarchy.

Kim Yong Hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said: "I can only guess that the roles played by Jang have caused some tension in the process of consolidating Kim Jong-Un's power.

"Jang once visited South Korea and witnessed many aspects of capitalist society, including the changes that have been happening in China.

"So he was the figure who was most likely to aggressively push for some reforms and opening of the North's system."

Analysts suggested GenJang may have lost out in a power struggle with Choe Ryong Hae, a close confidante of the North Korean leader who is director of the Korean People's Army's General Political Department.

In May, Mr Kim sent Choe as his personal envoy to Beijing to hand deliver a letter to China's new president, Xi Jinping.

Jang Song Thaek has fallen out of favour before.

In 2004 he was understood to have undergone "re-education" as a steel mill labourer because of suspected corruption, but he made a comeback the following year.