|Jang Song-thaek (center) is escorted by military officers to his trial last Thursday. (Yonhap News)|
Former confidants of Jang Song-thaek, the recently executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, have escaped en masse to China, a local daily reported Thursday. Some of them reportedly are in possession of key information, including inside knowledge about Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
According to the Segye Ilbo newspaper, some 70 people have escaped the communist country in the wake of Jang’s execution last Thursday. Among the escapees are Jang’s former aids, military personnel, diplomats and high officials from the North’s ruling Workers’ Party who grew fearful of falling victim to Kim’s recent “reign of terror.”
A government source told the daily that one of them has handed over a classified document to the South Korean authorities. This document is the reason why Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Tuesday raised the possibility of North Korean provocations between late January and early March, the source said.
A military source said that there are “big shot” escapees who have inside information on North Korea’s nuclear program and Kim’s slush fund, and who can even provide a list of spies Pyongyang sent to the South. These escapees are reportedly seeking political asylum in South Korea.
Experts are speculating that within the hermit kingdom a rapid power shift is taking place, underscored by the recent demise of the once-powerful Jang.