Monday, December 16, 2013

NORTH KOREA - Purge, Jang Song Thaek Execution

"North Korea executes high-level official, charging leader's uncle was a traitor" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 12/13/2013

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour):  Now to North Korea.

The execution of one of the isolated country's highest-ranking officials is raising questions about its stability.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our report.

KWAME HOLMAN (Newshour):  Until very recently, Jang Song Thaek was considered the second-most powerful figure in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  But on state TV today, his remarkable demise was made official.

NEWS ANCHOR (through interpreter):  The special military tribunal of the Ministry of State Security of North Korea condemned Jang Song Thaek as a wicked political careerist, trickster and traitor, in the name of the revolution, and the people ruled that he would be sentenced to death.  The decision was immediately executed.

KWAME HOLMAN:  Married to the aunt of leader Kim Jong-un, Jang ascended the country's ranks rapidly following the stroke of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, in 2008.  And he rose further still following Kim's death in 2011.

Though not a career military man, he was made a four-star general and was fond of appearing in his white military uniform at state events.  He played a key role in shaping economic policy and was considered the architect of the country's joint ventures with neighboring China.

However, in Beijing today, a spokesman was tight-lipped regarding the news of his death.

HONG LEI, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through interpreter):  This is North Korea's own internal affair.  As a neighboring country, we hope for North Korea to maintain stability, economic development, and a happy livelihood for its people.

KWAME HOLMAN:  As with word of his execution, Jang's removal from office was broadcast on state TV earlier this week, as the 67-year-old was taken from a Central Committee meeting by uniformed guards.  He was accused of a litany of crimes, from gambling away $6.3 million, to womanizing, to attempting to overthrow the leadership, to not showing proper enthusiasm for his nephew's achievements.

In Seoul, South Korea, the high-level purge has put officials on guard.

RYOO KIHL-JAE, South Korean Unification Minister (through interpreter):  Generally, in the past, we have seen that efforts to crack down on internal insecurities then lead to external provocations.  We are paying close attention to such a possibility this time as well.

KWAME HOLMAN:  Next week, the country marks the two-year anniversary of Kim Jong Il's death.

"Does North Korea's purge signal rising instability?" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 12/13/2013


SUMMARY:  Will the execution of Kim Jong Un's uncle, the high-level North Korean official Jang Song Thaek, lead to intensified internal repression?  Judy Woodruff gets analysis from Sung-Yoon Lee of Tufts University and Robert Carlin, co-author of "The Two Koreas:  A Contemporary History."

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