Nam Jae-Joon, the head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, briefing his National Assembly’s intelligence committee on December 23, disputed the official line that Jang Song-thaek (shown, front right), the uncle of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, was executed because he had been plotting a coup.
Jang was married to Kim Kyong-hui, the only sister of former North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il, and the aunt of Kim Jong-un, the present supreme leader of North Korea, who succeeded his father.
North Korea’s state-controlled media announced on December 12 that Jang had been executed. The government released a 2,700-word statement, indiscreetly charging that the "despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader for him.”
The Pyongyang government accused Jang of having committed “anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts,” including having illicit affairs with women, harboring “politically-motivated ambition,” weakening “the party’s guidance over judicial, prosecution and people’s security bodies,” and obstructing “the nation's economic affair.” Jang had been vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, and chief of the Central Administrative Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the communist state’s ruling party.
In Monday’s briefing before the intelligence committee, however, Nam offered an explanation for Jang’s fall from grace that differed from the official statement put out by Pyongyang. According to Nam, Jang and his business associates had made enemies within North Korea’s ruling establishment by dominating very profitable areas of the nation’s economy, including the sale of North Korean coal to China. “There had been friction building up among the agencies of power in North Korea over privileges and over the abuse of power by Jang Song-thaek and his associates,” Nam was quoted in a New York Times report.
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Photo of Jang Song-thaek: AP Images