12/03/2013, 00.00
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Kim Jong-un's uncle removed in Pyongyang's latest purge

Jang Song-thaek, the regime's eminence grise who handled the transition of power after the death of Kim Jong-il, was removed from his post at the National Defence Commission. A major powerbroker in the regime, he is married to the sister of the deceased 'dear leader' and acted as his nephew's guardian. The latter now appears to be on his way to emancipation.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - North Korea's dictator, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has ousted Jang Song-thaek, his powerful uncle and guardian, from his post as vice chairman of the National Defence Commission.

"If the report is confirmed," a Korean Catholic source told AsiaNews, "it would be a political earthquake with two possible outcomes. The first one would be positive if Kim Jong-un opens up the country to modernity; the second would be negative if he intends to centralise further his grip on power, and perhaps launch new attacks. Certainly, he seems bend on closing the books on the past."

Jang is married to Kim Kyong-hui, the sister of the late Kim Jong-il. His rise to power is tied to his marriage, which was approved by the "eternal president" Kim Il-sung.

After he joined the military, as all North Koreans do, Jang climbed the ranks up to the National Defence Commission, the country's most important body.

"They decide everything," the source told AsiaNews, "since North Korea is organised around a political doctrine that preaches the dominance of the military over all other socio-economic aspect."

Jan's wife, Kim Kyong-hui, is said to be in serious health conditions. Some sources say she was hospitalised in Singapore in October 2012 for pancreatic cancer.

Her husband's fall and the execution of two of his close confidantes on corruption charges have apparently led to the worsening of her condition.

The Kims are one of the cruellest families in the world, and purges are not unheard of as a tool of dynastic succession. As he consolidated power, Kim Jong-un last July got rid of his stepmother Kim Ok, his father's fourth wife and 'official widow'.

"I can only guess that the roles played by Jang have caused some tension in the process of consolidating Kim Jong-un's power," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University.

"Jang once visited South Korea and witnessed many aspects of capitalist society, including the changes that have been happening in China."

"So he was the figure who was most likely to aggressively push for some reforms and opening of the North's system," Kim added. (JYL)

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