Senior North Korean diplomat says Jang killed due to crimes against the country

A senior North Korean diplomat has revealed new details about why Kim Jong-Un’s uncle was executed.

North Korea’s ambassador to the UK, Hyun Hak-Bong, said Jang Song Thaek “made anti-party, anti-government crimes, and as well he abused his power in hindering the national economy and hindering the efforts of the national economy and for improving people’s living standards.”

He claimed Jang had stolen more than 7.5 million dollars from the people in 2009 alone and been repeatedly pardoned by the party and Kim Jong-Un.

But he said that the party’s patience had run out with Jang, adding: “He made tremendous crimes against the government, against the people, against the country.”

[Daily Mail]

Jang Song-thaek relatives also executed

All relatives of the executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, including children and the country’s ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia, have also been put to death at the leader’s instruction, multiple sources said Sunday.

Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle, was executed last month on charges of attempting to overthrow the communist regime, including contemplating a military-backed coup.

“Extensive executions have been carried out for relatives of Jang Song-thaek,” one source said on condition of anonymity. “All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children.”

The executed relatives include Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and Ambassador to Cuba Jon Yong-jin, and Ambassador to Malaysia Jang Yong-chol, who is a nephew of Jang, as well as his two sons, the sources said.

All of them were recalled to Pyongyang in early December and executed, they said. The sons, daughters and even grandchildren of Jang’s two brothers were all executed, they said.

“Some relatives were shot to death by pistol in front of other people if they resisted while being dragged out of their apartment homes,” another source said.

Some relatives by marriage, including the wife of the ambassador to Malaysia, have been spared from executions and sent to remote villages along with their maiden families, according to the sources.

“The executions of Jang’s relatives mean that no traces of him should be left,” a source said. “The purge of the Jang Song-thaek people is under way on an extensive scale from relatives and low-level officials.”

[Yonhap News]

One up on the power struggle in North Korea

The young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, learned from the most ruthless and long-lasting of modern dictators. His uncle Jang Song Thaek, publicly humiliated during a meeting of the party’s Central Committee as two uniformed soldiers grabbed Jang — until recently the country’s second most powerful man — was then taken away and accused of betraying Kim and the revolution.

Just a few days later, the North Korea government-controlled Korean Central News Agency reported that Jang had been executed for betraying the regime: “Despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader for him.”

These were amongst the stunning ledger of charges, and one that makes no effort to conceal there is a power struggle in North Korea. Tellingly, the accusations speak of a Jang Song Thaek “group,” which suggests the purge is far from over.

Jang is being erased from the records. The man who stood at Kim’s side when his father died is being Photoshopped out of existence. All mentions of him — except for the condemnations — are disappearing from the website of the Korean Central News Agency. And every photograph is now suddenly, and not-so-mysteriously, free of his image. He has even been deleted from a recent documentary about Kim Jong Un.

The experience from Saddam’s Iraq suggests that a reign of fear among the powerful serves only to entrench the harshest policies. High-ranking officials, worried about appearing weak or disloyal, will be more reluctant to suggest reforms that loosen the regime’s grip.

Kim is consolidating power, building his own inner circle of trustworthy loyalists and daring anyone to defy him. The young heir who rose to power two years ago under the protection of an experienced uncle is sending notice that he is not a child any more. The dictator is all grown up and settling in for a long time in power.

[CNN opinion]

On the internal crisis in North Korea

It’s most unlikely that Jang Song-thaek was really planning a coup, but all of his suspected allies and associates in his own department and other parts of the government, plus any senior military officers suspected of less than total loyalty to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, are in grave danger. Only two of Jang’s aides have been killed so far, but hundreds or thousands of other people thought to be linked to him may suffer the same fate.

This is unquestionably the biggest internal crisis in North Korea since the early years of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the regime and grandfather of the current dictator. Challengers to the Kim family’s monopoly of power have often been killed, but this is the first public show trial in North Korea since 1958.

It’s also the first time that the regime has publicly admitted that there are rival factions in the senior ranks of the Workers’ (Communist) Party. It’s hard to believe that this will not be followed by a wider bloodbath among the leading cadres along the lines of Stalin’s purges in the former Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s in China.

[From Georgia Straight opinion

What did Jang Song Taek do wrong?

Jang Song Taek, who held numerous posts in the North Korean regime since the 1970s, was considered the country’s second-most powerful man. Then, the most powerful man, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had his regent uncle executed.

The secretive nature of the North Korean regime makes it a challenge to deduce why Jang fell out of favor, though one expert sums it up this way: Kim Jong Un outgrew his guardian, and took him out. Those who agree with this hypothesis look at Jang’s trajectory throughout his decades in the regime.

At least twice before, Jang was purged from the leadership presumably for his too-big ambitions. Alexandre Mansourov, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University, and other analysts say Jang had a big ego and was arrogant.

One of the more surprising developments following the execution of Jang was the lengthy indictment of his alleged crimes and his character that was published by the state media. For the regime to so openly explain why it executed him, it could hint at Jang truly having overstepped his bounds. Whatever Jang did to betray North Korea, it was so severe that his wife, the sister of Kim Jong Il, could not, or would not, help spare him.

To the outside world, the transition of power from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un appeared smooth, but the revelations made in the indictment cast a different light on the change in power. The fall of Jang is evidence that there was resistance and tension behind the scenes during these past years, Mansourov said. It may turn out that Jang was building his own power base, growing his own cult of personality.

Jang may have underestimated the younger Kim, thinking he was a kid who could be manipulated, Mansourov said. In the end, Kim outgrew his regent.

[CNN]

Young leader cementing control or death throes of a teetering North Korean regime?

Depending on how you read the signs, the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle and formerly trusted regent, Jang Song Thaek, either shows a young leader further cementing his control, or the first death throes of a regime teetering on collapse.

For Jasper Kim, the founder of the Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, North Korea remains for analysts a “Rubik’s Cube that no one can solve.”

He said that North Korea, famous for tightly controlling the drip feed of real information coming out of the country, was now sending out violently mixed messages. “The recent release of the prisoner (Merrill Newman) and this execution couldn’t be more at odds; what this indicates is that it’s a chaotic situation in there,” he added. “What this points to in terms of regime change is that it’s a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’

“Basically we are seeing the hardline faction reassert itself. For Kim Jong Un, Jang Song Thaek was the bridge between him and his father, and now he will have very little protection.”

For Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in Seoul, the purge of Jang shows a young leader consolidating his grip on power.

“Some of the reasons are quite obvious and very transparent and many predicted that this was going to happen. … But people did not expect that it would happen in such a dramatic and theatrical manner.”

“It was clear from the first days of his rule that he would remove most of the people around him. Jang was particularly vulnerable exactly because he was initially appointed by late Kim Jong Il to be a regent — the chief adviser to the young ruler.

“But being a regent is a dangerous job. The king gets older and he feels more and more irritation and to hold more of a grudge against these noisy, strange, grumpy old men.

In the absence of any independently verifiable information, and in a regime where paranoid rhetoric is the normal register of almost all diplomatic language, any conjecture is likely to be as accurate as it is to be wide of the mark.

[CNN]

Uncertainty about North Korea after Jang execution

As the shock sinks in of North Korea’s extraordinary announcement of the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle and former protector, government officials and analysts are trying to decipher what the brutal move means.

Some saw the execution as a chilling demonstration of total control by Kim, the young leader who came to power two years ago. “I think what he’s telling people — the United States, South Korea, China, others — is that he is his own man, that you are going to have to deal with him,” said Philip Yun, executive director of the Ploughshares Fund, a nuclear nonproliferation group.

One big question is whether Kim acted out of strength, consolidating the power he has amassed over the past two years, or out of fear his uncle Jang Song Thaek was building a rival force inside the regime.

Suh Sang-ki, a lawmaker in South Korea’s governing Saenuri Party who sits on a parliamentary intelligence committee, said the decision to kill Jang suggests Kim’s power is weaker than that of his father. Suh said the execution appeared to be a pre-emptive effort to prevent any internal unrest over Jang’s ouster.

A U.S. official said, “Executing someone with Jang’s pedigree would be a dramatic statement that Kim Jong Un intends to be ruthless in consolidating his control.  The public airing of the power play under way — which is highly unusual — is probably sending shockwaves through North Korea’s leadership cadre.”

Few analysts interpreted the execution, which took place days after the North had said Jang had been dramatically removed from his government posts, as a healthy sign.

Analysts said North Korea was likely to continue with provocative moves. “I think there’s going to be a clear amount of brinksmanship,” said Yun of the Ploughshares Fund. “I think if we continue to wait for him to do things, he’s going to continue to shoot missiles, and he’ll probably at some point decide to test a nuclear weapon.”

Exactly what is going on inside the notoriously opaque North Korea regime remains as murky as ever.

[CNN]

Jang Song Thaek executed in North Korea

Jong Sang Thaek, the out-of-favor uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been executed, Korean Central News Agency reports.

“Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed” blared the headline posted on the state-run news agency. The story said that a special military tribunal had been held Thursday against the “traitor for all ages,” who was accused of having attempted to overthrow the state “by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods.”

It added, “All the crimes committed by the accused were proved in the course of hearing and were admitted by him.”

The KCNA report described Jang as “despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog,” and accused him of having betrayed his party and leader.

KCNA’s report comes days after Jang Son Thaek was removed from his military post.

Jang Song Thaek, who was married to Kim’s aunt, served as vice chairman of North Korea’s top military body and had often been pictured beside Kim, who has ruled North Korea since his father’s death in 2011.

More

Japan fears North Korean ‘Cultural Revolution’

The recent purge of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s once-powerful uncle could herald a period of radical upheaval comparable to China’s Cultural Revolution, Japanese defense minister Itsunori Onodera said on Thursday.

Pyongyang confirmed on Monday that Mr Jang Song Thaek, once seen as the power behind the throne, had dramatically fallen from grace, with state TV airing humiliating images of him being dragged away by uniformed officers.

“After seeing the footage of Mr Jang Song Thaek being arrested, it reminded me of scenes one might have seen during the era of China’s Cultural Revolution,” Mr Onodera said in a speech given at a private think tank in Tokyo.

“North Korea might become a more radical place in the future… that is my concern,” he said.

Like many countries, Japan has an awkward relationship with North Korea, which is complicated by Pyongyang’s perceived unwillingness to come clean about the extent to which Japanese nationals were kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s.

[Straits Times]

Unease in China and India over ousting of Jang Song Thaek from North Korean power

nkorea-uncle jangAn extraordinary photo published by the official KCNA news agency on Monday, showing Jang being unceremoniously escorted from a Communist Party meeting by two armed guards, left no doubt that he had become persona non grata.

The recent, very public ouster of North Korea’s Jang has been noted with some concern in China, which is more or less Pyongyang’s only friend in the region. As significant as such a high-level shakeup might seem inside reclusive North Korea, The New York Times says “nowhere is the downfall more unnerving than in China.”

“Despite Chinese irritation with North Korea’s nuclear tests and other bellicose behavior, China had built a good relationship with Mr. Jang as the trusted adult who would monitor Mr. Kim, who is less than half his age.”

“While there is no indication that the Chinese intend to change their view, it seemed clear that even Beijing’s top leaders were surprised by Mr. Jang’s abrupt downfall.”

Time writes: “Jang was once seen as a regent to the young dictator [Kim Jong Un]. He also had strong patronage networks of his own, and within the ultraconservative halls of North Korean power was seen as something of a liberal. He visited Seoul in 2002 and has made several official trips to China, most recently in August 2012.”

He was also reportedly a supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms, according to The Associated Press.

India’s The Hindustan Times points out that Beijing’s unease with the changed dynamics at the top of the government in Pyongyang were reflected in an editorial in the state-run nationalist tabloid, the Global Times, on Tuesday. “As Jang was viewed as the second-most powerful figure and is North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, this announcement is considered a significant political event,” it said.

[NPR]