Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
South Korean media, citing the parliamentary testimony of NIS officials, reported on 3 December (Tuesday) that Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek), uncle of supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) was recently “removed from power” and “removed from the public eye.” The NIS cited “multiple reliable sources ” and said it “independently confirmed” that Jang had fallen out of favor. Jang Song Taek’s last observed appearance was a 6 November meeting with a Japanese sports delegation and Jang has not made as many reported public appearances as he did in 2012 or 2011. The NIS also claims that two Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] officials with close ties to Jang were executed on charges corruption and insubordination during mid-November.
Among his many positions, Jang is the Director of the KWP Administration Department, Chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission and Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission. The dismissal or retirement of an NDC Vice Chairman or NDC Member is typically reported by DPRK state media once it has been effected. DPRK state media has not yet reported that Jang has been formally removed from office. The 67-year old Jang is the husband of Kim Kyong Hui, a KWP Secretary and sister of late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il). Jang and his wife orchestrated the transition from KJI to Kim Jong Un during 2011 to 2012. He has held a number of key positions in the DPRK leadership since his career began in the 1970s.
The two KWP officials rumored to have been publicly executed in mid-November are Ri Ryong Ha (Senior Deputy Director of the KWP Administration Department) and Jang Su Gil (Deputy Director of the KWP Administration Department). Ri Ryong Ha began his career in the KWP Organization Department in the early 1970s where he spent much of his career. Ri was a key player in establishing Kim Jong Il’s authority in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was selected in 2009 to manage aspects of Kim Jong Un’s hereditary succession. Jang Su Gil (no relation to Jang Song Taek) was a party manager in the construction and building materials sector. He was given the rank of Lt. General in February 2013.
Rumors that Jang Song Taek was being demoted or dismissed have surfaced in South Korean media in 2009, 2010 and 2011. There have been two previous incidents in which Jang lost his standing in the DPRK leadership. In the late 1970s, he removed from his position as a party cadre in Pyongyang and sent to work at Ch’o’llima Steel Complex. While working at the steel complex Jang sustained major burns to his body after an industrial accident. Some accounts have claimed Jang was caught hosting an unsanctioned party, but Jang was sent to the steel complex as Kim Jong Il’s scapegoat for a poorly organized mass evacuation of Pyongyang citizens. The second incident in which Jang fell out of favor occurred in 2003 and 2004 when he left senior party position, along with dozens of DPRK officials with patronage ties to Jang. There are some sources who still dispute that Jang was dismissed, but in any event, he disappeared from public for nearly two years.