North Korea executes uncle of leader Kim in shock purge

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Jang Song Thaek is dragged from his chair by two police officials during a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, in an undated picture grab from North Korea’s KCTV. (AFP/Yonhap)

Pyongyang — North Korea has executed the once-powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong Un in a shocking purge, according to its state news agency.

“Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed” screamed the headline early Friday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) about the man who just a few days ago had been considered the nation’s second-most powerful figure.

The KCNA said Jang had been executed for trying to overthrow the government, declaring him “despicable human scum… worse than a dog” and a “traitor for all ages”.

Jang was executed on Thursday after a special military trial, after committing such a “hideous crime as 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,” said the state news agency.

It went on with “The accused is a traitor to the nation for all ages who perpetrated anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership of our party and state and the socialist system.”

The KCNA’s viciously-worded rhetoric accused Jang of betraying the trust of both Kim Jong Un and his father Kim Jong Il, saying the uncle had received “deeper trust” from the younger leader in particular.

The regime accused him of trying to stand in the way of Kim Jong Un’s succession, said the KCNA.

Jang let in “undesirable and alien elements” to a department within the party’s Central Committee in an attempt to “rally a group of reactionaries to be used by him for toppling the leadership of the party and state”, it said.

The KCNA said that during the court hearing, Jang confessed to attempting to stage a coup d’etat by mobilising his associates in the military.

“I attempted to stir up complaints among the people and the military that even as the country’s economic situation and people’s livelihood are in dire situation, the current regime fails to deal with it,” Jang was quoted as saying before the court.

“He revealed his true picture as a traitor of all ages, saying that the coup was aimed at the supreme leader” Kim Jong-Un, said the KCNA.

Jang was found guilty by the military court of attempting to overthrow the state and given a death sentence to punish him sternly “in the name of revolution and the people”.

“The death sentence was executed immediately,” the KCNA reported.

Jang was married to the sister of the late Kim Jong Il, and was seen as Kim Jong Un’s political regent and the nation’s unofficial number two.

But the 67-year-old Jang’s power and influenced had become increasingly resented by his 30-year-old nephew Kim Jong Un.

Jang had recently been stripped of all his posts and titles, as the regime accused him of corruption and of building a rival power base.

In an extremely rare public humiliation of a figure, state TV this week showed photos of him being dragged out of his chair at a meeting by two officers.

He was then demonised as a drug-taking womaniser, according to reports.

On Tuesday, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye had accused Kim Jong Un of resorting to extreme violence to cement his power.

“North Korea is now engaged in a reign of terror while carrying out a massive purge to consolidate the power of Kim Jong-Un,” she said at a cabinet meeting, according to her office.

Kim Jong Un’s family has ruled North Korea with an iron fist for six decades, while purging anyone who shows the slightest sign of dissent. Most of those purged are either executed or sent to prison camps.

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