News / Asia

North Korean Leader Boasts of Unity After Bloody Purge

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech during his New Year address, released by Kyodo Jan. 1, 2014.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech during his New Year address, released by Kyodo Jan. 1, 2014.
Daniel Schearf
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country is united following a political purge that included the execution of his uncle. In a New Year's day speech, Kim also called for better relations with South Korea while warning Seoul and Washington that conflict on the peninsula could lead to a nuclear catastrophe.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday about a bloody purge in December of challengers to his political power.

In the high-level upheaval, Kim executed his uncle and one-time mentor, Jang Song Thaek, believed to be Pyongyang's number two in power.

South Korea's spy agency said at least two of Jang's followers were also killed as the young leader sought to consolidate his rule.

The unprecedented publicity of the violent removal of someone so close to the Kim family raised concerns about stability in the nuclear-armed North.

But in an annual New Year's Day speech aired by state broadcasters, Kim Jong Un said he removed what he called “factionalist filth” lurking in the party in order to restore unity.

He said the Korean Workers' Party detected and purged the anti-Party, counterrevolutionary factionalists at an opportune time and with a correct decision. He said the party and revolutionary ranks were further consolidated and their single-hearted unity was solidified by 100 times.

Jang Song Thaek was married to Kim Jong Un's aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, the younger sister of his father Kim Jong Il.

The aunt and uncle helped Kim Jong Un in the leadership transition after his father's sudden death two years ago. But uncle Jang was seen as a threat to the young Kim's power base as he sought to replace officials from his father's generation with younger loyalists.

Kim Jong Un is the world's youngest authoritarian ruler at about 30 years old.

While some of Jang's supporters were called back from overseas consulates, his wife, according to South Korean officials, was untouched by the purge.

In the speech, Kim Jong Un called for improved ties between Pyongyang and Seoul and an end to slander that harms both sides and efforts to one day reunify the peninsula.

He said they will join hands with anyone who opts to give priority to the nation and wishes for its reunification, regardless of his or her past, and continue to strive for better inter-Korean relations.

Korea was divided after World War II into a Soviet-influenced North and a United States-influenced South. Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, attempted to forcibly unify the peninsula under communism in a 1950 invasion that sparked the Korean War. The three years of fighting ended with an armistice leaving both sides, technically, in a continuous state of war.

Kim Jong Un said it was heartrending to see the peninsula divided by foreign forces, a reference to the 28,000 U.S. troops that are protecting South Korea from re-invasion.

He repeated rhetoric that U.S. and South Korean military exercises are preparation for a nuclear attack on the North and warned that accidents during the drills may lead to all-out war.

He said should another war break out on this land it will result in a deadly nuclear catastrophe and the United States will never be safe. He says all Korean people must not tolerate the maneuvers for war and confrontation by the bellicose forces at home and abroad, but stoutly resist and frustrate them.

South Korean officials said the political purge in North Korea revealed weakness in Kim Jong Un's leadership and warn he may attempt a military provocation in the coming months as a show of strength.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs