Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
The family members of the DPRK’s former #2 official and Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) uncle, Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek) have been executed. Yonhap, citing “multiple sources,” corroborated rumors that had circulating during the last month that Kim Jong Un ordered Jang’s relatives be put to death, following Jang’s 9 December 2013 removal from office and 12 December 2013 execution by the Ministry of State Security. The execution order was not restricted to adult members of the Jang family and included the murders of young children. Jang Song Taek’s sister, his nieces, nephews and the grandchildren of his two deceased brothers have all been executed by DPRK authorities. In some cases, Jang’s relatives were shot when they resisted being taken into custody by State Security personnel.
According to one Yonhap source “extensive executions have been carried out for relatives of Jang Song-thaek. All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children.” Another Yonhap source said that “some relatives were shot to death by pistol in front of other people if they resisted while being dragged out of their apartment homes.” Jang Family in-laws were largely spared execution, but were compelled to divorce their spouses then relocated with their own family members to detention facilities and rural, isolated villages. A third source said that “the executions of Jang’s relatives mean that no traces of him should be left” and that “the purge of the Jang Song-thaek people is under way on an extensive scale from relatives and low-level officials.”The purge of cadres and officials of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP], DPRK Government or Korean People’s Army [KPA] with personal or political ties to Jang Song Taek, including members of his family, has affected hundreds of people. Personnel of the Ministry of State Security’s Investigations Bureau have been tasked to “carry out the purge of the Jang Song Taek forces without the slightest forgiveness.” Like members of the Jang Family, these purges of officials also target the officials’ family members. In mid-January South Korean media reported that Deputy [vice] Director of the KWP Administration Department, Pak Chun Hong, had been removed from office and executed. Pak was tied to the Ministry of People’s Security and made a number of appearances at Kim Jong Un’s on-site visits. Former Minister of People’s Security Gen. Ri Myong Su has also been placed under investigation and rumors range from Gen. Ri being placed under house arrest to his being tortured and executed.
From mid December 2013 to mid January 2014, dozens of Jang Song Taek’s associates, along with their family members, have been arrested and sent to a State Security complex located within a mountain 22.4 km (13.9 miles) north of Pyongyang’s city centre. The complex is one place where the DPRK’s senior- and mid-level officials and elites accused of major crimes are sent. Detainees are incarcerated for the length of the investigation and interrogation concerning their alleged crime or activities. Once the investigation and interrogation process are complete, the detainees are executed. The complex sits behind two layers of concrete and barbed wire fencing and guard towers, at the end of an access road that winds through a weapons factory. According to a 3 January 2014 report in FNKR, at its height in late December, the complex received five to six truckloads of people per day and that State Security personnel at the complex “have made the workers stop commuting in order to hide the whereabouts of those arrested.”
Following Jang Song Taek’s removal from office and his execution in December 2013, it was widely expected among Pyongyang watchers that the purge would affect members of his family. However, there was a moderate degree of confidence that members of the Jang Family would be dismissed or demoted from their jobs and incarcerated or sent to the countryside. Executions, it was thought, would only impact Jang’s closest associates in powerful positions. In the aftermath of Jang’s dismissal, it could not be ruled out that Kim Jong Un would demonstrate some degree of benevolence toward those tied to Jang Song Taek. Instead of forgiving members of the Jang Family (who may not have had direct knowledge or any connections to their patriarch’s activities), it appears Kim Jong Un opted to pardon senior officials with patronage ties to Jang, such as Pyongyang’s party boss Mun Kyong Dok and Chairman of the State Commission for Economic Development Kim Ki Sok (once described as a Jang protege).