12/10/2013, 00.00
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North Korea, the purge of Jiang "is a clear message. Kim doesn't need a No. 2"

Analysts agree: the removal of the powerful former tutor gives all power to the young dictator. The photos of the humiliating arrest and the charges against the uncle of the dictator "demonstrates that no one is safe in North Korea."

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - North Korea confirmed two day ago that the powerful uncle of young leader Kim Jong-un has been purged. State television broadcast humiliating pictures of Jang Song-thaek being dragged from his chair by uniformed officers during a meeting in Pyongyang. The official Korean Central News Agency (Kcna) accused Jang of taking drugs and squandering money at casinos while having medical treatment abroad. The agency also said he had "improper relations with several women and was wined and dined in the back parlours of deluxe restaurants".

The agency said the decision to purge him was taken on Sunday at a high-level meeting of the ruling Workers' Party attended by Kim. It said the purge would extend to supporters of Jang, but did not provide details.

Jang is married to Kim's aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, the younger sister of former leader Kim Jong-il. Jang rose in the party and military ranks alongside his baby-faced nephew. He was often seen in a white general's uniform and standing within arm's length of Kim on field visits and at state events. South Korean media with access to North Korean television reported that footage of Jang has also been edited out of propaganda documentaries.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the move could spark a sweeping purge targeting those loyal to Jang. "There will be a storm of purge across the country... so Kim Jong-un becomes the one and only centre of power, challenged by no one," he said.

Kim has reportedly overseen other purges of senior officials, though none as high profile as this one. One of the most notable was last year's firing of military chief Ri Yong-ho. He was dismissed in July due to an unspecified illness.

Jang had close ties to China and visited Beijing last year on Kim's behalf. He was also head of the North Korean side of a joint project managing a special economic zone with Beijing. In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei described the events as the "internal affair" of its neighbour.

Cui Zhiying , director of Tongji University's Korean Peninsular Research Centre, said Jang's purge indicated that Kim had consolidated his power. "This kind of high-profile purge is quite unusual. It would only happen in China during the Cultural Revolution, but not now," Cui said.

"Jong-un has built up a solid power base and he no longer needed a regent who appeared to be increasingly powerful and threatening," said Paik Hak-soon, a researcher at the South's Sejong Institute think tank. "The message delivered today is clear. North Korea does not and will not allow a No 2 leader," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.





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