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North Korea's Kim seen behind sacking of powerful uncle

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Did Kim Jong-Un Fire His Uncle?


BY JACK KIM AND JU-MIN PARK

(Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is believed to have dismissed a powerful uncle, a man key to his rise to power, from his posts, South Korean lawmakers said on Tuesday, a move that could help consolidate his power base with a younger guard of aides.

Jang Song Thaek was likely sacked as vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission and as a department head of the ruling Workers' Party, lawmaker Jung Cheong-rae said, citing a senior South Korean official with the National Intelligence Service (NIS).

Analysts who watch the North's power structure say Jang's removal would not have been possible without the approval of the third Kim to rule in the family dynasty.

The move is likely to tip the balance in favor of another close aide - the top political operative for the army, which could mean a symbolic victory for the 1.2-million-strong military.

Choe Ryong Hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, has been the most prominent figure to accompany Kim at public events and is a reminder of the state's political roots in military power.

There was no immediate mention of Jang's fate on North Korea's KCNA news agency, the primary source of information on the impoverished country for outsiders which regularly carries editorials threatening the wealthy, democratic South and the United States with destruction.

Two members of the South Korean parliament's Intelligence Committee told separate news briefings that the NIS had confirmed the public execution of two close aides to Jang in the North's ruling Workers' Party for corruption.

"The briefing by an NIS senior official was that they believe Jang Song Thaek has lost his posts," Jung, who is the ranking opposition member of the intelligence committee, said.

"Following (the executions), the NIS said it believes Jang Song Thaek has not been seen and has lost his posts," Jung told the briefing.

A ruling party member of the committee held a separate news briefing and delivered a similar report.

The removal of Jang, a key figure in the power transition following the 2011 death of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, could tip the balance in the fiercely competitive group of confidants surrounding the current leader but was unlikely to impact on Kim Jong Un's hold on power, experts said.

WHAT HAPPENS TO ECONOMIC REFORMS?

"Jang Song Thaek is a person who at one point Kim Jong Un had to cut out as he solidifies his own power structure," said Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul, a leading expert on the North's leadership.

"I think the young elite had Kim get rid of Jang, meaning that he will rule without a guardian."

Accordion-playing Jang, 67, is married to Kim Jong Un's aunt, Kyong Hui, who is a daughter of the North's founding leader and its "eternal President", Kim Il Sung.

Jang, who is widely seen as an advocate of economic reform, was purged in a power struggle in 2004 under Kim Jong Il's rule but was reinstated two years later.

One key question now is what his ouster will mean for the devastated economy.

"Within the current leadership, he (Jang) seems to be the face of economic reform, so there is a risk involved with removing someone that close to the program," said John Swenson-Wright, a senior fellow at Chatham House, a London-based international affairs think tank.

Earlier this year, Jang and his wife were seen backing the appointment of Pak Pong Ju, a career technocrat, for the post of premier to spearhead a push to improve the economy.

Jang has been the central figure among top officials and family members who worked to ensure the young and untested son of Kim Jong Il took over power when his father died in 2011.

While Jang's ouster could symbolically tip the balance of power in favor of a key figure in the military, Choe, analysts say it is unlikely to signal a return to the military grandstanding of Kim's father as a top priority.

Apart from domestic political problems, North Korea is involved in a protracted standoff with the West over its nuclear weapons program.

Tensions between North and South Korea soared earlier this year as Pyongyang reacted angrily to tightened U.N. sanctions imposed in response to its latest nuclear test, but then eased for several months. The two sides are still technically at war after their 1950-53 civil war ended in a mere truce, not a treaty.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson, Michelle Kim and Narae Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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Beckey Neal December 03 2013 at 3:28 PM

I look someday to see this little evil piece of ignorance destroyed by some of the innocents he has inflicted his sociopathy upon.

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1 reply
GOODSKIPPER Beckey Neal December 03 2013 at 8:22 PM

bear in mind, we're still marching guardmount at the DMZ. we have personnel there who'll be in deep s if we're not the first to strike..piss on the UN(who are not our friends) and whatever international community who disagree

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frogmn171 December 03 2013 at 1:33 PM

This fat little scum stain makes himself feel like a man by arresting a senior citizen, what a scum bag! It is reported his girl friend disappeared, she probably saw his dick and laughed so hard he could not find it with all that fat!

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gunsnnovas December 03 2013 at 1:33 PM

The entire nation of N. Korea is no more than a welfare scam run against the world. They present the various world organizations with scenes of abject poverty, malnourished children, and pictures of blighted lands. They expect the world to help them, and then they pour their money into nuclear weaponry, their military, and spy establishment.

It's about time that the world simply tells them that WE will give help to their people, DIRECTLY, or not at all. If they don't like it, it isn't our problem.

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Gene Ernster December 03 2013 at 1:28 PM

Whats new. We are on the same tactic w Iran

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aledobears December 03 2013 at 1:17 PM

lol...is there really no other room on that escalator??

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rrboyle December 03 2013 at 1:11 PM

The general state of NK is terrifically sad, with no freedom, little food, and not much hope for change either. A "military solution" is tempting, but vast numbers of innocent lives would be lost...not worth it just to "erase" one foul leader. It's going to a long haul, and we in the West are along for a very uncomfortable ride.

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Bob December 03 2013 at 3:04 PM

As old as i am, i would join up to go to war with these demons, I am ready to fight with these idiots!!

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1 reply
A. Edwards Sr. Bob December 03 2013 at 3:15 PM

indeed and while we're at it let's discuss his hair cut. I couldn't achieve those results if I shaved my ass with a Boalo knife.

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1 reply
GOODSKIPPER A. Edwards Sr. December 03 2013 at 8:24 PM

the shape of his head tells the whole story....mammy and auntie must have used a cheap clothes hanger

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bjamebon3 December 03 2013 at 12:52 PM

With their economy so lousy I doubt that any of them stays in power for too long. Maybe they get rid of this dictator ,and all the hardliners pretty soon. These jokers would like to say they will get rid of weapons ,but they lie through their teeth. Once you know that ,they are forced in time to end their bullying ,or be sanctioned to death. You can only get so much relief from shaking your nuclear weapons ,as the Russians found out ,and sooner ,or later they had to be more civil. Actually it won't help us one bit if the North is like South korea ,or China. We all know how bad that turned out for our mfg. base. So they are actually doing us a favor by being foolish Communists

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sterlingdt December 03 2013 at 12:48 PM

Someone really needs to shoot this guy...

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1 reply
degeis sterlingdt December 03 2013 at 1:00 PM

Why don't you volunteer?

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Lloyd December 03 2013 at 12:41 PM

Watching Kim Jong Twit run his country is like watching a toddler play with lit fireworks. Get close enough to take them away from the little b45tard and you run the risk of blowing up with him.

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