Kim's purge of his uncle sets up N. Korea power play

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SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said today that leader Kim Jong Un ousted his uncle, his de facto deputy, for abuse of power, corruption and gambling away foreign currency reserves, in the highest-profile purge since Mr. Kim took power two years ago.

Jang Song Thaek was stripped of all his posts and expelled from the ruling Workers' Party at a meeting Sunday of its Politburo in Pyongyang, the official Korean Central News Agency said today.

Mr. Jang "desperately worked to form a faction within the party by creating an illusion about him," KCNA said, days after South Korea said it suspected his ouster and that two of his aides had been executed.

The purge of a man who helped engineer the transfer of leadership to Mr. Kim from his father, Kim Jong Il, opens the door to a power shuffle in a country that has defied warnings against building nuclear arms. Mr. Jang also led an economic delegation to China last year as North Korea struggles to revive its economy.

"North Korea will undergo volatility for some time before Kim fills the holes left empty by the purge," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "The message delivered today is clear: North Korea does not and will not allow a No. 2 leader."

Mr. Jang, who married Kim Jong Un's aunt Kim Kyong Hui in 1972, was appointed as a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, the highest seat of power in Pyongyang, just months before longtime ruler Kim Jong Il died in December 2010. A four-star general, Mr. Jang walked right behind the new leader during a funeral procession for Kim Jong Il that illustrated the power line-up in the secretive regime.

The nation's former de facto No. 2 was "affected by the capitalist way of living," as well as being "ideologically sick and extremely idle and easy-going," KCNA said.

Mr. Jang sold off state resources cheaply, had "improper relations" with several women, and was wined and dined at back parlors, KCNA said. He used drugs and squandered foreign currency at casinos while receiving medical treatment overseas, it said.

"These are crimes serious enough to cost the lives of the whole family and their closest kin had he not been related to the leader," Mr. Yang said.


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