North Korea last night made the shock announcement that Kim Jong Un’s uncle had been executed, calling the leader’s former mentor “worse than a dog”.
The news came only days after Pyongyang said Jang Song Thaek – long considered the country’s No 2 – had been removed from all his posts over allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanising and leading a “dissolute and depraved life”.
The KCNA news agency, which is controlled by the state, said: “The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state.”
Jang helped Kim Jong Un consolidate power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. Jang was the victim of the latest in a series of purges that Kim has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power.
Some analysts see it as a sign of Kim Jong Un’s growing confidence. But there has also been fear that the removal of such an important part of the North’s government – seen by outsiders as the leading supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms – could create dangerous instability or lead to a miscalculation or attack on the South.
Tensions are still high on the Korean Peninsula following a torrent of threats in March and April by Kim Jong Un’s government against Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, including vows of missile and nuclear strikes.
Jang was married to Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il. He was earlier accused by state media of taking drugs and squandering money at casinos while undergoing medical treatment abroad.