North Korea confirms removal of Kim Jong-un’s 'depraved' uncle Jang Song Thaek

Jang was once seen as Kim's mentor long considered the country's second power - but his removal was blamed on 'corruption, drug use, gambling and womanizing'

Seoul

North Korea has announced the sacking of leader Kim Jong-un's uncle, the man long considered the country's second in command, citing corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and a generally “dissolute and depraved life” that has resulted in Pyongyang's highest-profile fall from grace since Kim took power two years ago.

Not long after Jang Song Thaek been removed from power as part of a series of purges in the country’s leadership, startling images emerged showing Kim’s former mentor had been retrospectively cut out of official videos and photographs.

The removal of Jang Song Thaek, once seen as Kim's mentor, is the most significant in a series of purges the young leader has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power since his father's 2011 death.

The confirmation that Pyongyang had “eliminated Jang and purged his group” carried in an unusually detailed and lengthy dispatch by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, and was seen by some analysts as a warning against dissent. It came about a week after South Korea's spy agency said that two of Jang's closest assistants had been executed for corruption.

North Korean state TV showed a still image of two uniformed guards holding Jang by the arms at a meeting of the country's Political Bureau as dozens of dark-suited officials seated behind rows of long desks looked on.

And in the aftermath of the attack, images of Jang appearing on state visits alongside Kim were cropped down in order to erase any memory of the now disgraced family member.

This handout image from South Korea's Ministry of Unification shows before and after photos of still grabs taken from the documentary 'The Great Comrade' This handout image from South Korea's Ministry of Unification shows before and after photos of still grabs taken from the documentary 'The Great Comrade' With tensions on the Korean Peninsula still high following a torrent of threats in March and April by Kim's government against Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, there were fears in Seoul that confusion in the North could lead to a miscalculation or attack. Experts believe Pyongyang has a handful of crude nuclear bombs. South Korea's defense ministry said there have been no suspicious military movements, however.

The allegations against Jang, 67, couldn't be independently confirmed, and there was no mention of further punishment for him.

Jang, seen by outsiders as the North's leading supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms, has reportedly been cast down before only to return to power. But Monday's announcement was especially shrill, even by the standards of North Korea's state media, suggesting this time he won't be coming back.

The documentary was re-broadcast with Jang Song Thaek edited out of footage The documentary was re-broadcast with Jang Song Thaek edited out of footage “I believe it shows Kim Jong-un is firmly in control and confident enough to remove even the senior-most officials,” said Bruce Klingner, an Asia specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington. “Kim has purged hundreds of officials since ascending the throne two years ago. ... Kim originally focused his wrath against the military, but by removing Jang, a senior Korea Workers' Party official, the bloodletting may now be directed against real or imagined enemies within the party structure.”

Jang — who is married to Kim Jong-un's aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il — was described as “abusing his power,” being “engrossed in irregularities and corruption,” and taking drugs and squandering money at casinos while undergoing medical treatment in a foreign country. The dispatch also said he had “improper relations with several women and was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants.”

“Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life,” it said.

Film-makers cropped out the powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un Film-makers cropped out the powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un The decision to strip Jang of all posts and titles and expel him from the ruling Workers' Party was made at a Political Bureau meeting of the party's Central Committee on Sunday. The dispatch also said that the purge would extend to supporters of Jang but did not provide details.

Referring to North Korea as a “popular democratic dictatorship,” Monday's state media dispatch said “Jang seriously obstructed the nation's economic affairs and the improvement of the standard of people's living.” Kim Jong-un has vowed to lift the country from poverty while also pursuing a nuclear weapons program that has drawn worldwide criticism — and heavy economic sanctions.

The announcement also hinted that Jang was trying to build a powerbase of his own to rival that of the party status quo, saying that he committed anti-party, counter-revolutionary acts and “pretended to uphold the party and leader” while double-dealing behind the scenes.

This handout image from South Korea's Ministry of Unification shows before and after photos of still grabs taken from the documentary 'The Great Comrade', re-broadcast on North Korean state broadcaster KCTV showing scenes from the original version (L) and of the recently rebroadcast version (R) where the powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Un (in the red circle), was edited out of footage This handout image from South Korea's Ministry of Unification shows before and after photos of still grabs taken from the documentary 'The Great Comrade', re-broadcast on North Korean state broadcaster KCTV showing scenes from the original version (L) and of the recently rebroadcast version (R) where the powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Un (in the red circle), was edited out of footage Jang has held a string of senior jobs, including membership in the National Defense Commission, the government's top ruling body. He served as a leading economic policy official in charge of the push to draw foreign investment, traveling in 2012 to China to discuss the establishment of special economic zones. He had also assumed responsibility for North Korea's burgeoning sports industry, a pet project of Kim Jong-un's.

Kim Jong-un has reportedly overseen other purges of senior officials, though none as high profile as this one.

One of the most notable personnel changes was the 2012 firing of military chief Ri Yong Ho, who was once also dubbed a mentor to Kim Jong-un. State media said he was dismissed in July 2012 due to an unspecified illness, but analysts speculated that Ri was purged because Kim wanted to reshape the power structure.

The North publicly executed 17 people last year and 40 this year, according to lawmakers in Seoul who were briefed by South Korea's spy agency last week.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most