North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un's Uncle Executed: Report

2013-12-12
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C-front) applauding at a concert in Pyongyang as his uncle, Jang Song Thaek (front L), looks on, April 15, 2013.
AFP PHOTO/KCNA via KNS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek has been executed for trying to overthrow the government, state media announced Thursday, calling the country's once second most powerful figure "a traitor" and "worse than a dog."

The official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said Jang was executed on Thursday shortly after a special military trial.

The United States said the execution demonstrated "the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime."

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried a photograph of a handcuffed Jang being held by uniformed guards as he stood trial, Reuters news agency reported.

KCNA accused the 67-year-old Jang of a "hideous crime [of] attempting to overthrow the state" and harboring "a wild ambition to grab the supreme power" of the reclusive and nuclear-armed state.

"The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time," KCNA said in an English-language report headlined "Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed."

"From long ago, Jang had a dirty political ambition," the report said. "He dared not raise his head when Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were alive," KCNA said.

Kim Jong Un's father Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack in 2011 while his grandfather Kim Il Sung died in 1994.

At the military court hearing on Thursday, Jang said he had attempted to stage a coup d'etat by mobilizing his associates in the military, according to KCNA.

The execution came after Jang was stripped of all posts, expelled from the ruling Workers' Party, and accused of mismanagement of the state financial system, womanizing, and alcohol abuse.

Photographs released by North Korea’s state TV broadcaster this week showed Jang, once seen as the young Kim’s mentor, being forcibly removed from a meeting in an auditorium by two uniformed men.

It was the first time in about four decades that such humiliating pictures of a purged official were made public, underscoring the young Kim’s ruthless rule, according to experts cited in reports.

U.S. following developments

The United States said it has no reason to doubt the KCNA report.

“While we cannot independently verify this development, we have no reason to doubt the official KCNA report that Jang Song Thaek has been executed," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

"If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime," she said. "We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region.”

South Korea held a security ministers' meeting to discuss the situation in North Korea, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

The meeting was chaired by presidential national security chief Kim Jang-soo.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye earlier this week said Kim Jong Un had resorted to extreme violence to cement his leadership.

"North Korea is now engaged in a reign of terror while carrying out a massive purge to consolidate the power of Kim Jong Un," she told a cabinet meeting, according to her office.

Jang is the husband of Kim Kyong Hui, who is the sister of Kim Jong Un’s father Kim Jong Il.

Jang and Kim Kyong Hui were once seen as the ultimate power couple in Pyongyang, but over the last year she has been less visible, with some reports saying she was seriously ill.

North Korea has been under iron clad rule by the Kim family for the past six decades. Those showing any sign of opposition are executed or sent to prison camps.

Reported by RFA's Korean Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.