N. Korea: Kim Uncle Purged for 'Depraved Lifestyle'

Top aide believed to have fled south
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2013 11:35 PM CST
Updated Dec 9, 2013 7:56 AM CST
Pyongyang: Kim Uncle Purged for 'Depraved Lifestyle'
Jang was "leading a corruptive life, abusing his power" under the influence of capitalism, Pyongyang says.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Xin, File)

Pyongyang has today confirmed that Kim Jong Un's uncle has been fired and it sounds like Jang Song Thaek was a pretty busy guy during his years as North Korea's second most powerful official. According to Pyongyang's statement, Jang led a "dissolute and depraved" lifestyle, using drugs and having "improper relations with several women," the Washington Post reports. Kim's uncle was also an "ideologically sick and extremely idle and easygoing" man who used drugs and blew the country's cash at foreign casinos, all while disobeying orders from Kim and plotting to build up his own power base. The BBC reports state news agency KCNA released not just the statement but also images that show Jang being forcibly removed from a party meeting by guards; it has the photos.

Jang—whose wife may be purged next—"committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution," Pyongyang says. One of Jang's top aides is believed to have fled to South Korea, in what would be the North's highest-profile defection in more than 15 years, reports Reuters. So what does it all mean for North Korea? Jang was spearheading economic reforms that may now be on the back burner, analysts say, and the high-profile nature of his ousting appears to be a warning against dissent—and a signal that Kim plans to treat political rivals more harshly than his father did. Further, the Wall Street Journal reports that the "power-consolidation move" could actually usher in instability. The military and ruling party each claim a good deal of power, and Jang, for all his military titles, was seen as a party figure. A former US official says the purge could result in a perceived power shift toward the military. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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