Seoul — A powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been dismissed from his post, according to South Korean media reports.
Jang Song Thaek, 67, was dismissed from his position as vice-chairman of the North’s top military body and as a department head of the ruling Workers’ Party.
South Korean lawmakers said they believed Kim had sacked his uncle, a man who was key to Kim’s rise to power, in order to consolidate his power base with a younger guard of aides.
Jang Song Thaek was dismissed together with two close aides in the Workers Party –Ri Yong-Ha and Jang Soo-Kil — who were publicly executed for corruption in late November, according to the reports.
If true, Jang’s dismissal would be the biggest significant shift at the top of the North Korean leadership since Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father Kim Jong Il in December 2011.
The report come out from an intelligence briefing given to South Korean lawmakers.
“The briefing by an NIS senior official was that they believe Jang Song Thaek has lost his posts”, said lawmaker Jung Cheong-rae in a news briefing.
North Korean military personnel had been informed of the executions, Jung said, and that Jang had since “disappeared”.
Mr Jang is married to Kim Jong il’s sister.
He has often been pictured beside the elder Kim’s son Kim Jong Un and was seen by some observers as the power behind him.
“I can only guess that the roles played by Jang have caused some tension in the process of consolidating Kim Jong Un’s power,” said Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University.