Jang Song Thaek, North Korea’s second most powerful man and leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, stands trial before a special military tribunal in Pyongyang on Thursday, a day before he was executed.
Seoul: North Korea said yesterday it has executed the uncle of leader Kim Jong-Un, branding veteran fixer Jang Song-Thaek a “traitor for all ages”, as the US and South Korea voiced concern at the shock purge.
In a stunning downfall, Jang — who had been seen as Kim’s political regent and the country’s unofficial number two — was executed on Thursday immediately after a special military trial, state news agency KCNA.
In a viciously worded attack it said he committed such a “hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.”
The report portrayed Jang as decadent and corrupt, “stretching his tentacles” into every area of national affairs. In a rare admission of economic strife, it also blamed him for the failings of the hungry and impoverished nation.
Jang, 67, played a key role in cementing the leadership of the inexperienced Kim when he succeeded his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011, but analysts said his power and influence had become increasingly resented.
“If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime,” US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that Washington was following developments closely.
South Korea yesterday expressed “deep concerns” over the developments, and said it would prepare for “all possibilities in the future” and coordinate closely with its allies.
“The North usually curbs internal instability by waging provocations externally,” the South’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae said, warning the purge could be followed by military responses including another nuclear test.
China — the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline — said Jang’s execution was an internal matter but also emphasised the need for stability.
“As a neighbour we hope to see national stability, economic development and people living in happiness in the DPRK,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.
Three generations of the Kim family have ruled the North for six decades with an iron fist, regularly purging those showing the slightest sign of dissent. Most are executed or sent to prison camps, but the nation has not seen such a high-level execution for decades.
The regime accused Jang of betraying the trust of both Kim Jong-Un and his father — saying he had received “deeper trust” from the younger leader in particular.
In a nation long ruled under a pervasive personality cult, Jang was also accused of slighting the young leader.
Deriding Jang as “despicable human scum... worse than a dog,” the KCNA report said he had attempted to stand in the way of Kim Jong-Un’s succession and then targeted him with a planned coup.
During the court hearing, Jang reportedly confessed he attempted to stage a coup by mobilising his associates in the military.
“I was going to stage the coup by using army officers who had close ties with me or by mobilising armed forces under the control of my confidants”, KCNA quoted him as saying.
“I attempted to trigger off discontent among service personnel and people when the present regime does not take any measure despite the fact that the economy of the country and people’s living are driven into catastrophe.”
South Korea’s spy agency told the National Assembly that the worst purge in decades in the Stalinist state masks its chronic instability. AFP