Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un's Powerful Uncle, Possibly Sacked

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JANG SONG THAEK
A man watches a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and Kim' uncle, Jang Song Thaek at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Two South Korean lawmakers said Tuesday they were told by intelligence officials that two associates of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle were executed last month. They said the uncle has not been seen publicly since then, indicating he may have been dismissed. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's spy agency believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle may have been dismissed from his posts last month, when two of his aides were executed, two lawmakers said Tuesday.

The lawmakers said they were told by South Korea's National Intelligence Service that Jang has not been seen publicly since then, indicating he may have been sacked.

There was no official word from North Korea on Jang's fate, and it was not possible to independently confirm the claim.

Jang has reportedly been purged in the past, only to return to power. He has held a slew of top posts and is married to former leader Kim Jong Il's sister.

He was seen as a powerful influence as young leader Kim Jong Un consolidated power after his father Kim Jong Il's death in December 2011. Jang walked by Kim Jong Un's side as a hearse carried Kim Jong Il's body through Pyongyang.

NIS wouldn't confirm the two lawmakers' details about Jang, which came in a closed-door intelligence briefing. One of the lawmakers, Jung Chung-rae, said the NIS didn't tell him how it obtained the information.

The other lawmaker, Cho Wonjin, said the spy agency reported that North Korean authorities were investigating corruption allegations involving Jang's aides.

Jang was last seen in North Korean media on Nov. 6.

South Korean intelligence officials have erred previously in predicting changes in the secretive North, and senior North Korean officials occasionally disappear from state media reports and then reappear.

Jang's posts include vice chairmanship of the powerful National Defense Commission and membership in the ruling Workers Party's political bureau. He has also been a frequent companion of Kim Jong Un on his tours around the country, as he was for Kim Jong Il. He has also been seen as a leading economic policy official.

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