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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora