Jang Song Thaek, 67, who had been considered the second most powerful official in the country, and a mentor to his nephew, was killed immediately after a military trial. It is believed he was executed in the customary North Korean way by firing squad.
In a statement Pyongyang called him a ‘traitor to the nation for all ages,’ ‘worse than a dog’ and ‘despicable human scum’ who planned a military coup. Earlier this week he was expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea and stripped of all his posts, having been accused of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanising and leading a ‘dissolute and depraved life’.
It is believed he was executed in the customary North Korean way, by firing squad. The state-controlled Korean Central News Agency released a 2,700-word statement in English today. The former second most powerful man in North Korea was removed from official media and his image airbrushed out of photos with other leaders.
Jang, had been seen as helping Kim Jong Un consolidate power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. Jang was called a traitor for trying to seize absolute power, a stunning end for the supreme leader’s former mentor. The news agency indicated he had seen the change of leadership as an opportunity to challenge his nephew.
Jang had been tried and executed, North Korea claimed, for ‘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’. Analysts say Kim Jong Un has acted swiftly and ruthlessly to bolster his own power and show strength.
But there are fears in South Korea that the removal of Jang and his followers could lead to instability, a political miscalculation or even an attack on the South. Jang had been seen by outsiders as the leading supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms and an important link between Pyongyang and Beijing.
In Seoul, top presidential security and government ministers began an unscheduled meeting last night to discuss Jang’s execution and its ramifications for cross-border relations. South Korean president Park Geun-hye warned the North is ‘carrying out a reign of terror’ to reinforce Kim Jong Un’s position.
There was no immediate word about the fate of Jang’s wife, Kim Kyong Hui, the younger sister of Kim Jong Il. She was also seen as an important mentor to Kim Jong Un after her brother’s death.
ABC News had earlier reported that Kim Kyong Hui was involved in the purging of her own husband, but this claim could not immediately be verified.