North Korea has announced that it has executed Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek.
The announcement came only days after Pyongyand announced through state media that Jang Song Thaek who has long been considered the country’s No. 2, had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and leading a “dissolute and depraved life.” KCNA, the states news agency said a tribunal examined Jang’s crimes, including “attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.” The report called him “a traitor to the nation” and “worse than a dog.” Jang was executed after admitting to his crimes before a military tribunal today, the North said in a statement released by the news agency.
His removal marks the biggest shake-up in two years under Kim’s leadership and his execution suggests that the North’s young leader is willing to go after his rivals publicly in ways his more secretive father never did. The North Korean government has never so explicitly described the crimes or the punishment of a high-level official, experts are saying.
White House spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that there was no reason to doubt the report of Jang’s death and if true, it illustrated North Korea’s “extreme brutality. If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region.”
Many analysts see North Korea’s personnel reshuffle 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 a dangerous instability or possibly 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 warning that Pyongyang would restart nuclear bomb fuel production.