Seoul (AFP) – North Korea said Friday it has executed the uncle of leader Kim Jong-Un, branding veteran fixer Jang Song-Thaek a “traitor for all ages”, as the U.S. and South Korea voiced concern at the shock purge.
In a stunning downfall, Jang — who had been seen as Kim’s political regent and the country’s unofficial number two — was executed on Thursday immediately after a special military trial, state news agency KCNA.
In a viciously worded attack it said he committed 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.”
The report portrayed Jang as decadent and corrupt, “stretching his tentacles” into every area of national affairs. In a rare admission of economic strife, it also blamed him for the failings of the hungry and impoverished nation.
Jang, 67, played a key role in cementing the leadership of the inexperienced Kim when he succeeded his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011, but analysts said his power and influence had become increasingly resented.
State media showed a stooped and handcuffed Jang being led away from the military trial, flanked by two officers, one of whom had a hand on the back of his neck.
“If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime,” U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that Washington was following developments closely.
South Korea on Friday expressed “deep concerns” over the developments, and said it would prepare for “all possibilities in the future” and coordinate closely with its allies.
“The North usually curbs internal instability by waging provocations externally,” the South’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae said, warning the purge could be followed by military responses including another nuclear test.
China — the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline — said Jang’s execution was an internal matter but also emphasised the need for stability.
“As a neighbor we hope to see national stability, economic development and people living in happiness in the DPRK,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.
Three generations of the Kim family have ruled the North for six decades with an iron fist, regularly purging those showing the slightest sign of dissent. Most are executed or sent to prison camps, but the nation has not seen such a high-level execution for decades.