Early Friday morning in North Korea, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA – Korea’s official news outlet) reported that Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle, was executed.
The news comes as purges of North Korea’s central governing personnel continue. Kim Jong-un took power nearly 2 years ago following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. At the time of his ascent, Kim Jong-un was 28 years old and believed by many to be too young and ill-prepared to rule. Fortunately for Jong-un, though, he had many advisers left from the reign of his father to assist along the way.
One of those mentors was Jang Song-thaek, the husband of Kim Jong-il’s sister, Kim Kyong-Hui, and thus Kim Jong-un’s uncle. Song-thaek was instrumental during Jong-un’s transitional period, a time where Song-thaek’s mentorship and assistance was essential to ensure that Jong-un was able to capture the power necessary to rule such an authoritarian state.
According to the press release from KCNA, Jang Song-thaek “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 by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.”
The report goes on to describe Song-thaek as a “traitor”, “despicable political careerist”, “trickster”, “despicable human scum”, and “worse than a dog”.
Jang Song-thaek was arrested earlier this week on charges of corruption, acts of treachery, drug use, gambling, and womanizing. Jang was brought to trial after “the service personnel and people throughout the country broke into angry shouts that a stern judgment of the revolution should be meted out to the anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional elements.”
Because North Korea is a communist state with closed borders and media outlets, the truth behind these allegations may never be known. However, many analysts see this recent purge of older political advisers as an attempt for Kim Jong-un to create a generational divide between his own rule and the rule of his father: “Kim is young. He has a long way to go and this was an inevitable step to consolidate power around him with young and fresh generals,” stated Koh You-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
Many political pundits also see this purge as a move of desperation which has come much too soon: “That purge was surprisingly earlier than expected. Kim’s been in power for less than two years and he does not yet have a strong political base in the party. North Korea is likely to be unstable for the time being,” reported Park Chang-kwon, senior research fellow at Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.
Fears concerning what will happen next in North Korea are not unwarranted. Earlier this year, Kim Jong-un and North Korea made threats of missile attacks against several countries and toward restarting their nuclear weapons program. These recent rounds of purges could attest to two happenings: 1) Kim Jong-un is facing resistance to his plans and ideas internally and wishes to have those sentiments removed; or 2) Kim Jong-un has become a bit too cocksure early in his rule and wishes to operate based on his own ideas and opinions. Whatever the reason, one can be reasonably certain that North Korea is yet to experience even more uncertainty and instability in the years to come.
[Image via YouTube]