North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s purge of his uncle and de facto deputy amounts to a “reign of terror” and threatens to undermine further relations with South Korea, President Park Geun Hye said.
“North Korea is currently conducting a reign of terror by pushing ahead with extensive purges to strengthen Kim Jong Un’s power,” Park told a Cabinet meeting today. “North-South relations may become more unstable in the future.”
Kim ousted Jang Song Thaek from the ruling party at a Politburo meeting on Dec. 8 in Pyongyang in the highest-profile purge since he took over from his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong Il who died of a heart attack in December 2010. His purge, reported by state media with photos of his arrest on charges of graft and factionalism, prompted South Korea to heighten its military readiness.
Jang, married to Kim Jong Il’s sister, visited South Korea in 2002 as part of an economic delegation at a time of thawing cross-border ties.
“Jang’s sacking contributes to the cumulative evidence that the maturing leader continues to dismiss his elder guardians appointed by his father in order to clear the path for his own absolute rule,” Alexandre Mansourov, a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote on its blog, 38 North.
In 2012, the official Korean Central News Agency said Ri Yong Ho, the general staff chief, considered another guardian for Kim Jong Un, was removed from all posts and traces of his presence were eliminated from official footage and photos.
Jang was appointed as a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, the highest seat of power in Pyongyang, just months before Kim Jong Il died. A four-star general, 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.
“Jang’s purge, far from undermining the stability of the regime, may open a period of cleansing with big and small purges as well as loyalty competitions among the elites,” Mansourov wrote.