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Asia-pacific

Kim Jong Un’s uncle sacked, says North Korea

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-09

North Korea confirmed Monday that leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek (pictured left), has been dismissed for committing “criminal acts”. Jang was previously considered his nephew's mentor and the power behind the throne.

North Korea confirmed on Monday that Jang Song Thaek, an uncle of the country's leader Kim Jong Un, had been dismissed for committing “criminal acts” prompted by political ambition.

Jang had been previously considered the second-most-powerful man in the country, viewed as his nephew's mentor and the real power behind the throne.

"Prompted by his politically motivated ambition, he tried to increase his force and build his base...," the KCNA news agency said on Sunday. "Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution."

The KCNA also said Jang was guilty of having "improper relations with several women”, becoming "affected by the capitalist way of living", using drugs and “squandering” foreign currency.

Jang has been relieved of all posts and titles, state media reported.

Analysts said that Jang's main role had been to ensure a smooth transition after the inexperienced Kim succeeded his father in 2011, and that he had become increasingly resented by the leader, who is around 30 years old.

"Jong-Un has built a solid power base for the past two years, and he no longer needed a regent who appeared to be increasingly powerful and threatening," said researcher Paik Hak-Soon of South Korea’s Sejong Institute think-tank.

'Storm of purges'

Jang has fallen out of favour before. In 2004 he underwent "re-education" as a steel mill labourer because of suspected corruption, but he made a comeback the following year.

He expanded his influence rapidly after former leader Kim Jong-Il suffered a stroke in 2008 and was appointed vice-chairman of the top military body, the National Defence Commission, in 2010. His wife, Kim Jong-Il's sister Kim Kyoung-Hui, has also long been at the centre of power.

But there is little chance of Jang being publicly rehabilitated a second time, Paik said. "This time, Jang is gone for good. He'll never be allowed into politics again."

Other analysts say that this is just the beginning, as the young leader seeks to consolidate his power.

Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, predicts sweeping purges also targeting those loyal to Jang.

"There will be a storm of [purges] across the country... so Kim Jong-Un becomes the one and only centre of power, challenged by no one," Yang said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-12-09

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