News / Asia

South Korea Cautious on North Political Shuffling

A woman walks past a television showing a report on Jang Song Thaek, North Korean leaders' uncle, at a railway station in Seoul, Dec. 3, 2013.
A woman walks past a television showing a report on Jang Song Thaek, North Korean leaders' uncle, at a railway station in Seoul, Dec. 3, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
South Korea's ministry in charge of relations with North Korea is urging caution over reports of a power shuffle in Pyongyang. Seoul's spy agency said leader Kim Jong Un removed his uncle as second in charge and had two of his aids executed prompting a media frenzy of speculation.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service late Tuesday said it believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's uncle was dismissed, and two of his assistants executed, on charges of corruption and disloyalty.

The uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was vice chairman of North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission and mentor to the young leader after his father, Kim Jong Il, died two years ago.

But on Wednesday, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin was cautious in responding to the spy agency's claims.

She said at the moment, they understand there is a strong possibility that Jang Song Thaek was removed from all of his positions. However, in the past, there were official reports that other leaders stepped down due to health issues. But in the case of Jang Song Thaek, she said, there has been no official report.

The story has dominated South Korea's media since late Tuesday when lawmaker Jung Cheong-rae released the spy agency's claims to reporters.

Jung is a member of the National Assembly's intelligence committee that was briefed by the NIS on the alleged ousting of Jang Song Thaek.

Analysts have noted that Jang has not made any publicized appearances for the past month, indicating the 67-year-old's influence on Kim Jong Un has been waning.

Pyongyang has not made any comments on the NIS claims.

Lim Jae-cheon is a professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University. He said if there is a power-struggle in North Korea, it would be a power-struggle between Kim Jong Un and Jang Song Thaek. He says Kim Jong Un has a firm determination to control North Korea under his own power and Jang Song Thaek’s influence was too excessive. He said Kim Jong Un might have thought Jang’s power was an obstacle in expanding his own power.

Andrei Lankov, Professor of Korean history at Kookmin University, says a power struggle, while possible, is not likely. He said the 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un is consolidating his power under a younger generation and Jang's removal would more likely be the first sign of a widespread purge.

“Not only Jang Song Thaek but a vast majority of the current top civilian bureaucrats being gradually displaced by new people; people whose name we don't know, people who are very young-roughly of Kim Jong Un's age. And this is necessary for Kim Jong Un if he is going to start a policy of his own,” said Lankov.

Jang Song Thaek fell from grace in the past under Kim Jong Il when he disappeared for a few years only to return to a high rank just ahead of the leadership transition.

Kim Jong Il removed from power his own uncle, Kim Young Joo because, according to some analysts, he was seen as a likely successor. He was later reinstated.

Lankov said the removal of mentor in the Kim dynasty is similar to a royal family distancing the regent to solidify power in the monarch.

But he said, even if true, it is unlikely Pyongyang will confirm the dismissal of Jang Song Thaek because he is related to the ruling family.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid