Jang Song-taek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is said to be the person really holding power in North Korea, according to South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo.Sources told the Chosun that Jang “has emerged as the sole power behind the throne, systematically dismantling a power structure put in place by former leader Kim Jong-il before his death in 2011.”
Jang has reportedly removed his rivals, such as the ousted (and possibly dead) General Ri Yong-ho (Jang’s right hand man was reportedly involved in a gun battle with Ri). Another rival, Ri Je-gang, a first deputy director of the Workers Party’s powerful organisation and Guidance Department, died in mysterious car accident in 2010.
Such a rise wasn’t entirely unpredicted. Since the death of Kim Jong-il late last year analysts have pointed out that Jang was likely to emerge as a power-broker for Kim, who is still only in his 20s. There had even been some analysts reports that suggested Jang might challenge Kim for a real leadership position.
The exact relationship between Kim and Jang remains unclear, however. There have been a variety of reports that Kim has established himself well as a leader — even, reportedly, seizing North Korea’s notorious foreign currency businesses from the military who had controlled much of it under his father.
Whether Jang could ever claim greater power is in doubt. “In North Korea, only the Kim family is allowed to reign,” one source told the Chosun. “Jang’s power will last only as long as his wife is alive.”
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