Kim May Have Canned Uncle in Huge Power Shift

According to reports from the South's spy agency
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2013 7:21 AM CST
Kim May Have Canned Uncle in Huge Power Shift
In this Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 file photo, Jang Song Thaek, who was North Korea's vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, attends a meeting.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Xin, File)

If reports from the South are correct, North Korea is seeing a major change in its leadership. Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, has reportedly been fired from his role as vice chairman of the country's powerful National Defense Commission, per South Korea's spy agency. Yonhap reports that Jang "is widely regarded as the most influential figure in North Korea after Kim"; some considered the 67-year-old to be the "power behind" Kim, the BBC reports. He was last seen in public Nov. 6, and made his last appearance with Kim on Oct. 10. It's unclear why he may have fallen out of favor.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service further says a number of sources have confirmed that two of Jang's aides were publicly executed over corruption last month. Jang has apparently faced disagreements with fellow leaders before: Reports in 2004 said he was under house arrest or facing "re-education," but he apparently returned to power two years later. Jang is married to Kim Jong Il's sister, though Yonhap cites reports stating he and his wife have grown apart. As for his relationship with Kim Jong Un, he walked by the leader's side as a hearse carried Kim Jong Il's body through Pyongyang, notes the AP. But "compared with 106 appearances made together the leader in 2012, he only accompanied Kim on 52 occasions for the whole of this year," says a South Korean official. (More North Korea stories.)

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