South Korea's unification minister says there is a "very high" possibility North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle has been fired but urged caution over reports of a power shuffle in Pyongyang
The statement comes after Seoul's spy agency said in report to lawmakers Tuesday that it believed Jang Song Thaek was dismissed from his posts.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae does not believe Jang is in any physical danger but did confirm that two of his closest aides were publicly executed.
Ryoo also said "follow-up measures" are being taken against Jang's associates and that the North has been paying special attention to "blocking internal unrest."
South Korea's National Intelligence Agency says Jang has not been seen since mid-November, when his confidantes - Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-keel - were executed in mid-November.
Jang is married to the sister of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. He has long been considered influential in the North's secretive governing hierarchy. He holds several positions, including vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.
North Korea has not commented on the report. If confirmed, it would be one of the top shuffles of North Korean leadership since Kim Jong Un took over.