published Thursday, December 12th, 2013

North Korea executes leader's uncle as a traitor

  • photo
    In this Feb. 16, 2012, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks past his uncle Jang Song Thaek, left, after reviewing a parade of thousands of soldiers and commemorating the 70th birthday of the late Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
    AP Photo/Kyodo News, File

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea on Friday announced the execution of Kim Jong Un's uncle, calling the leader's former mentor a traitor and "worse than a dog."

The announcement came only days after Pyongyang announced through state media that Jang Song Thaek — long considered the country's No. 2 power — had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and leading a "dissolute and depraved life."

Jang was seen as helping Kim Jong Un consolidate power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. Jang was the latest and most significant in a series of personnel reshuffles that Kim has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power.

Some analysts see the purge as a sign of Kim Jong Un's growing confidence, but there has also been fear in Seoul 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 and warnings that Pyongyang would restart nuclear bomb fuel production.

Jang was married to Kim Jong Un's aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il. He was earlier described by state media 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.

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