December 13th, 2013
10:36 AM ET

North Korea Says Leader's Uncle Was Executed

An uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been executed for trying to overthrow the government, the Korean Central News Agency reported early Friday.

"Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed" blared the headline posted by the state-run news agency about the man who, until recently, had been regarded as the nation's second-most powerful figure.

The story said that a special military tribunal had been held Thursday against the "traitor for all ages," who was accused of trying to overthrow the state "by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods."

It added, "All the crimes committed by the accused were proved in the course of hearing and were admitted by him."

Once his guilt was established, Jang was immediately executed, it said.

The KCNA report described Jang as "despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog," and said he had betrayed his party and leader.

"This is a stunning development," Marcus Noland, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told CNN on Thursday. "I've been following North Korea for 20 years and I do not remember them ever publicly announcing the execution of a senior leader. You hear rumors about it, but this theatrical arrest earlier in the week and now this execution are unprecedented."

He added, "The regime, I think, is trying to intimidate anyone that might have independent ideas or harbor any ambitions."

KCNA's report comes days after Jang was removed from his military post.

Jang, who was married to Kim's aunt, had served as vice chairman of North Korea's top military body and had often been pictured beside the 30-year-old leader, who has ruled North Korea since the death in 2011 of his father, Kim Jong Il.

It has previously been reported that Kim Il Sung - the late father of Kim Jong Il and the architect of the North Korean state - disapproved of Jang's marriage into the family, according to Time Magazine.

In Washington, a State Department official acknowledged having seen the report of Jang's execution. "While we cannot independently verify this development, we have no reason to doubt the official KCNA report," Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

"If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region," Harf added.

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