The rumors we heard from South Korea last week are true: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has removed his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, from power. Jang, once seen as Kim Jong Un's mentor, was the vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission.
North Korea confirmed the move on Sunday after South Korea's Yonhap news agency noted that a documentary that aired on North Korean television on Saturday cut him out entirely (he was present in earlier airings) and all mentions of him had been removed from the state-run KCNA website.
Needless to say, when North Korea removes you from its public record, that's a very, very bad sign.
According to the KCNA, Jang (who apparently was allowed to be mentioned again in this context) was accused of "anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts" such as:
"Gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party and disturbing the work for establishing the party unitary leadership system and perpetrated such ant-state, unpopular crimes as doing enormous harm to the efforts to build a thriving nation and improve the standard of people's living.
"Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scene."
"Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life.
"By abusing his power, he was engrossed in irregularities and corruption, had improper relations with several women and was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants.
"Ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going, he used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while he was receiving medical treatment in a foreign country under the care of the party."
There's still hope yet for Jang, who was once seen as his nephew's mentor. Jang, 67, has survived purges before and returned to power, though this was by far the most public. Also, it's believed that two of his top aides were executed last month, and he hasn't been seen since.
What Jang's removal means to North Korea is a matter of debate, according to the AP. Some believe it shows that Kim Jong Un is insecure about his position and is trying to remove any possible challengers to his throne. Others believe it shows that he is stronger than ever, and secure enough to take out anyone he so desires.
Jang is married to Kim Jong Il's sister. According to the BBC, they have had one daughter, who is believed to be dead.
Reprinted with permission from The Wire. The original story can be found here.