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

    Video Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.