North Korea officially announced that it has purged leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, considered the country’s second most powerful official, accusing him of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and generally leading a “dissolute and depraved life.”
Jang was described by state media as “abusing his power,” being “engrossed in irregularities and corruption,” and taking drugs and squandering money at casinos while undergoing medical treatment in a foreign country. The dispatch also said he had “improper relations with several women and was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants.”
“Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life,” it said.
Kim Jong Un will now rule without the relative long seen as his mentor as he consolidated power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. Jang Song Thaek’s fall, detailed in a lengthy dispatch by state media, is the latest and most significant in a series of personnel reshuffles that Kim has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power.
Some analysts see the purge 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 dangerous instability or lead to a miscalculation or attack on the South.
The decision to strip Jang of all posts and titles and expel him from the ruling Workers’ Party was made at a Political Bureau meeting of the party’s Central Committee on Sunday. The dispatch also indicated that the purge would extend to supporters of Jang, but did not provide details.
Opinion has been divided among analysts on what the purge may mean for the future of North Korea. Some believe it’s the result of a weakened Kim Jong Un fending off challengers, but others say it indicates the young leader’s growing strength.
“I believe it shows Kim Jong Un is firmly in control and confident enough to remove even the senior-most officials,” said Bruce Klingner, an Asia specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington. He added, however: “There is no reason to believe with this latest ouster that there will be a change in North Korean policy; that the Kim dynasty will suddenly turn around its bad behavior.”