North Korea leader's 'traitor for all ages' uncle executed

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea has executed the uncle of its leader Kim Jong Un after a shock purge, state news agency KCNA said on Friday, branding the once-powerful Jang Song-Thaek a "despicable human scum" and a "traitor for all ages".

Jang was executed on Thursday shortly after a special military trial found him committing such a "hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state", KCNA said.

"The accused is a traitor to the nation for all ages who perpetrated anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership of our party and state and the socialist system."

In a viciously worded attack, the regime accused Jang of betraying the trust of both Mr Kim Jong Un and his father, Mr Kim Jong Il, saying he had received "deeper trust" from the younger leader in particular.

Branding Jang "despicable human scum... worse than a dog", the regime accused him of attempting to stand in the way of Mr Kim Jong-Un's succession, according to KCNA.

Jang let in "undesirable and alien elements" to a department of the party's crucial Central Committee in a bid to "rally a group of reactionaries to be used by him for toppling the leadership of the party and state", it said.

Washington said it could not verify the report but had no reason to doubt that Jang had been executed.

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

Analysts said a widespread purge was likely to be carried out against those associated with Jang, especially those at the Central Committee's administrative department he had headed.

During the court hearing, Jang said he attempted to stage a coup d'etat by mobilising his associates in the military, according to KCNA.

"I attempted to stir up complaints among the people and the military that even as the country's economic situation and people's livelihood are in dire situation, the current regime fails to deal with it," Jang was quoted as saying at the military court.

"He revealed his true picture as a traitor of all ages, saying that the coup was aimed at the supreme leader" Kim Jong-Un, KCNA said.

The court found him guilty of attempting to overthrow the state in breach of the Criminal Law and handed out a death sentence to punish him sternly "in the name of revolution and the people".

"The death sentence was executed immediately," KCNA said.

Jang, who was married to the sister of the late Kim Jong Il, played a key role in cementing the leadership of the inexperienced Kim. But analysts say the 67-year-old's power and influence had become increasingly resented by his nephew, who is aged around 30.

Jang - seen as Mr Kim's political regent and the country's unofficial No. 2 - had earlier been stripped of all posts and titles, with the regime accusing him of corruption and building a rival power base.

State TV this week showed photos of him being dragged out of his seat at a meeting by two officers, in an extremely rare public humiliation of a figure who was then demonised as a drug-taking womaniser.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Tuesday accused Mr Kim Jong Un of resorting to extreme violence to cement his leadership.

"North Korea is now engaged in a reign of terror while carrying out a massive purge to consolidate the power of Kim Jong-Un," she told a Cabinet meeting, according to her office.

The Kim family has ruled the North for six decades with an iron fist, regularly purging those showing the slightest sign of dissent. Most are executed or sent to prison camps.

Analysts warn Jang's ouster - the biggest political upheaval since Jong-Un took power - may cause significant instability even in the world's most tightly controlled nation.