North Korea has confirmed the rumors that Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was indeed removed from power, and the government is now going out of its way to prove his guilt. Pyongyang's state news agency, KCNA, broadcasting images of the formerly powerful family member being physically removed from a party session attended by hundreds of delegates.
Previous reports based on South Korean media indicated that the brother-in-law of the late Kim Jong Il recently lost his job as the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, and that at least two of his close aides were publicly executed. Until recently, Kim's uncle was the second most powerful man in the country.
KCTV playing out Uncle Jang's arrest, with angry KCNA lady pic.twitter.com/xGo240djHH— KCNA Watch (@KCNAWatch) December 9, 2013
Korea observers already knew about the change in power as — in a move worthy of Stalin's Soviet Union — images and mentions of Jang suddenly disappeared from previously published North Korean news reports and propaganda films. But North Korean officials do disappear and reappear from state media from time to time. Jang himself was purged once before in 2004, under his brother-in-law's regime, reportedly working his way back into favor after that.
This time, North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA made Jang's ouster official on Sunday by outlining a litany of accusations against him: "Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution," the report said. It goes on:
"Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts [such] as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scene...Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life. Ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going, he used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while he was receiving medical treatment in a foreign country under the care of the party."
The agency also accused Jang of having affairs with "several" women and of "throwing the state financial management system into confusion."Jang's fate is not yet confirmed, but it can't possibly be good. Observers, who were largely surprised by Jang's disappearance, believe the move is probably part of a larger effort by Kim to consolidate his power.