Published : 2014-01-26 19:52
Updated : 2014-01-26 19:52
North Korea has reportedly executed almost all relatives of Jang Song-thaek, the purged uncle of the North’s despotic ruler Kim Jong-un, underscoring the communist regime’s reign of terror.
Once dubbed the North’s No. 2 man, Jang was himself executed last December for plotting to subvert the regime, which presaged the purging of many with ties to the disgraced elite, who had a wide network of associates in the ruling Workers’ Party, military and state organs.
The reports said Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun and brother-in-law Jon Yong-jin were executed in early December, while Jang’s nephew Jang Yong-chol met the same fate last month. Jon was the North’s ambassador to Cuba while Yong-chol served as the top envoy to Malaysia.
Multiple sources also said state agents had killed all direct descendants of Jang’s older brothers, who were onetime general officers in the North Korean military before dying of natural causes. Children were among those killed, the sources said.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry neither denied nor confirmed the reports.
North Korea traditionally purges all family members over the age of 15 after executing a government official in fear of future revenge against the regime, said Ahn Chan-il, director of the World North Korea Research Center.
Pointing to Jang’s role in fostering economic cooperation with China, Ahn added that the recent execution of Jang’s associates and relatives could help explain why Pyongyang is eager to mend fences with Seoul.
“North Korea is suffering from a partial oil embargo imposed on them by China,” Ahn said.
“Pyongyang officials are genuinely scared because they have barely enough fuel to run their tanks and airplanes while the South and the U.S. get ready for a military exercise,” he said, referring to the annual South Korea-U.S. military drills slated to begin in late February.
Last Friday, Pyongyang proposed holding the reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. The proposal came after it rejected South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s proposal on Jan. 6 to hold family meetings unconditionally.
North Korea expressed eagerness for peace on Jan. 16 when they asked the South to mutually refrain from slandering each other. After Seoul officials demanded the North show their sincerity through actions rather than words, the North sent an open letter on Friday expressing again their wish for enhanced inter-Korea ties.