North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un may have fired the second most powerful in North Korea — a man who's also his uncle.
South Korea’s spy agency reportedly told lawmakers Jang Song Thaek had been sacked from his high-ranking post as vice chairman of North Korea’s military. Two of his associates are said to have been executed for corruption. (Via BBC)
Some have speculated Jang, too, has been executed. Yonhap News Agency points out out he hasn’t been since seen in public since November 6.
Voice of America reports his apparent dismissal wouldn’t have been possible without a stamp of approval from his nephew.
If true, it would mark the first major shakeup of Kim’s administration since the young leader came to power following the death of his father two years ago. (Via ABC)
Jang is married to Kim’s aunt and is considered one of the most influential figures in North Korean politics. His family connections reportedly gave him extra influence beyond his official role. (Via WBFF)
And many analysts believe it was Jang who was really calling the shots. But if that’s the case, why get rid of him?
The Daily NK may have seen it coming. The paper wrote earlier this month Jang’s clout was wearing thin, as Kim began making more decisions for himself and started consulting less with his aides.
A professor at Dongguk University in Seoul has a slightly different theory, telling The Washington Post: "If Jang’s dismissal is in fact true, we can interpret it as Kim Jong Un removing a figure who got in the way of his direct ruling system … Kim Jong Un could have felt his presence and influence burdensome."
Whatever the reason, the implications could be huge. Jang was somewhat of a moderate — at least in comparison to Kim.
The Wall Street Journal reports he was said to be "impressed with China’s economic reform."
As Tokyo-based professor told The Telegraph: "The ousting of Jang is likely to weaken Kim's control of the government, with the military increasing its influence and isolating the fledgling dictator."
Some have pointed to the long-term health issues of Jang’s wife and say he could have simply resigned for that reason. Tough to verify though — there’s been no immediate response from North Korea or its state-run media.