News / Asia

N. Korean Leader's Uncle Executed

People watch television news showing Jang Song-thaek in court before his excution on December 12, 2013, at the rail station in Seoul, Dec. 13, 2013.
People watch television news showing Jang Song-thaek in court before his excution on December 12, 2013, at the rail station in Seoul, Dec. 13, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
North Korea's state media have announced the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for attempting to overthrow the state.

The declaration comes just days after Jang, considered the country's second in command, was publicly ousted from power for alleged disloyalty and corruption.

South Korea says it is now closely watching for further signs of instability in the nuclear-armed North.

Trial, conviction for list of charges

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency early Friday reported a military tribunal overnight tried and executed Jang Song Thaek.

KCNA said Jang, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un and assumed second in command, was found guilty of attempting to overthrow the state, party, and leadership.

The article, headlined, “Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed,” said he committed “counter-revolutionary” acts. It called Jang “human scum” and “worse than a dog.”

Pyongyang's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed pictures of Jang standing at the military trial, bowing in submission with guards on both sides.

High level executions rare

Lee Yun-keol is president of the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center, a private research institution. He says the rapid execution demonstrates leader Kim Jong Un has not yet stabilized his grip on power.

He says there has never been a case where someone was executed after a special military trial held by North Korea’s state security department. He says that usually criminals are sent to political camps and receive harsh punishment until their death. He says Jang Song Thaek’s execution shows that Kim Jong Un’s regime has become relatively weaker than before and there are many forces supporting Jang’s power hidden inside North Korea.

Jang Song Thaek and his wife, Kim Kyong Hui, acted as mentors to Kim Jong Un when he became third generation ruler after his father Kim Jong Il's death in 2011.

KCNA claimed Jang plotted for years to take power from the Kim family and that his work began in earnest after Kim Jong Il's demise.

Jang was publicly ousted from power Sunday and stripped of all titles. He faced a laundry list of accusations including factionalism, ignoring orders, and selling off national resources on the cheap.

Political analysts say the 30-year-old North Korean leader saw Jang, more than twice his age, as a rival as he sought to secure sole control over the country.

Andrei Lankov is a professor of Korean history at Kookmin University. Interviewed by VOA via Skype, he says the publicity of the execution is likely intended to scare officials into obedience but it could also encourage rebellion.

“Under Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung they very seldom killed high level officials. Now they are not secure, they know it, and it means that if they face a threat, if somebody powerful enough is aware that he is going to be purged soon, he might seriously consider a coup or other kind of violent resistance to the regime,” Lankov said.

South Korea concerned

Jang's dramatic downfall raises alarm bells in Seoul as political change in North Korea is often accompanied by belligerent words or actions as a show of strength.

South Korea's office of the president on Friday held an urgent national security meeting to discuss the implications for stability on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea's military has been conducting winter drills this month.

South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Wi Yong-seob says they are closely monitoring the military for more aggressive movements.

He says it is possible that North Korea may conduct a fourth nuclear test or launch missiles but there is no special movement in the missile launch site or nuclear test site so far.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification is responsible for inter-Korean relations. Spokesman Kim Eui-do said the government was watching the events with concern.

He says the government is checking the internal situation in North Korea and considering various possibilities. He says they are watching North Korea's announcements and reactions and if there is any internal change from now on.

South Korea said it would work closely on the issue with allies and related governments.

The U.S. State Department said, if confirmed, the execution is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Edvin from: Albania
January 06, 2014 1:56 PM
What has happened is a common phenomenon for communist countries. Unfortunately, communism and its extensions are not being treated in the democratic world in the same way fascism does. And that may cause a threat to democracy and freedom in our societies. We've heard a lot of bad things about the famous Senator McCarthy, but if through his tough ways he's been able to prevent the establishment of such regimes in the Western society, then maybe we must dare to consider also appreciating this contribution of him.

by: JerryFrey from: USA
December 13, 2013 11:23 AM
Behind the curtain: Fascinating pictures from inside North Korea give a rare glimpse inside the secretive Communist state

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
December 13, 2013 10:21 AM
There is nothing new here. The wording of the accusation is not true. But there was an element of truth in it - a rebellion. The element of truth in the accusation of the leader's uncle is that he became both weary and disillusioned about the North Korean system and advocated for change. The unfortunate man must have seen how Iran, just yesterday reintegrated into world affairs while North Korea remained an outlaw.

Perhaps he had been vehement in demanding a change, but a coup.., No! Like the blood of the early Christians became the seed of the Church, so also the blood of liberals and freedom fighters inside North Korea will form the seed of discord within the iron curtain, and its roots will tear down the walls of division. Soon, and very soon, Kim Jong Un will be laid bare with no supporters. North Korea will be about to be liberated from the non-progressive young madman's grip.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 13, 2013 7:06 PM
I agree with you. North Korea could be the last county where an autocracy remains to be able to execute any protesters with no pleas.I am sure N. Korean regime should break down near future. But how could it be achieved? With interference of China? With more heavy sanctions from the world? Or by regicide from inside?

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 13, 2013 12:58 AM
I wonder how many people would follow Jang Song Thaek. What is the fate of Jan's wife, or aunt of Kim Jong Un? I am afraid the number of victims would expand as Kim developes delusion to suspect and kill his surroundings no matter how testimony exists. I agree and dare to expect it may happen an awared man would punish Kim before he was executed.

by: Anonymous
December 12, 2013 11:50 PM
Wow! I can't believe that they did that. IF he was a criminal, then send him to jail, don't take his life. Taking his life was a bigger crime.

by: Anonymous
December 12, 2013 11:28 PM
I have no doubt in me that an implosion will occur from within,which might even consume the erratic leader
In Response

by: Anonymoose from: nowhere
December 13, 2013 12:49 PM
Ahh yes...
Regicide is slowly creeping in.

by: Markt` from: Virginia
December 12, 2013 5:56 PM
I had a feeling about this one....when the story first broke a week or so ago I thought to myself, "he'll be dead soon." I was right.
In Response

by: Kaalmooye from: Nairobi
December 13, 2013 12:16 AM
You were not expecting to see O J Simpson soap opera style in Pyongyang, right?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs