How Did Uncle Jang Get in Trouble?

One thing I wish to impress upon readers here is that I’m only collecting available information. Sometimes that information comes from hasty, sensationalist news sources, and sometimes it’s pure speculation based on potentially related incidents or facts. I’m sure that some portion of information I post here, from these sources, may be discredited in the future as better intel is made known. For now, I just want to explore an interesting possibility.

When Uncle Jang had been removed from power at the beginning of this month, there was rampant speculation as to what factors had precipitated this. We know that he was a power-monger: in the 1970s he rose rapidly into influence, checked only by Kim Il Sung himself who had (prescient) concerns about Song Taek’s greed for power. He attempted to consolidate his power base in 2004, unsuccessfully, yet rose again to become director of the KWP Administration Department, was elected to the National Defense Commission and finally promoted to full membership of the KWP Political Bureau the year before his death, a status that even eluded Kim Kyong Hui.

We know that he worked very hard to become Kim Jong Il’s right-hand man, undertaking special assignments during his estrangement from his wife, supporting Jong Il’s various children, sending them off to school in Europe, getting them established politically, &c. There’s even one thin rumor that one of his children was not his own: Jang Kim Song may have been an illegitimate child by Kim Il Sung that Song Taek adopted. Now that is political clout—to no avail, as it played out. At any rate, it seems at least that Uncle Jang ably fulfilled his role as supporter for the more influential Kim children to whatever extent he was able.

But regardless of his prowess with tending to family affairs, there were some gaping holes in his career. For instance, he was in charge of a spy agency that, reportedly, was unaware of Jong Il’s death until they read about it in the newspaper a week after the fact. As well, the family accountant for Jong Il and Jong Un, the man who knew the details of every financial secret of these decadent leaders, fled to China around the end of September 2013. This accountant reported directly to Song Taek, and the escape of that crucial information from DPRK control could pose an unforgivable liability.

Today, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported:

“So far, Kim Jong-un has deposited about $40 billion in his accounts in banks abroad, such as a local bank in Switzerland, and spent his money on presents for high-ranking officials, such as luxury watches, scotch and cars, in an effort to rally their loyalty,” the paper said. “And that money was managed by Jang Song-thaek and his aides. About half of his money was already spent by Jang Song-thaek’s group [for their own uses],” the paper continued. “It was uncertain whether Kim Jong-un could retrieve his money [before the execution of Jang].”

This was a footnote in the article, the main thrust of which was that Supreme Leader may have been drunk off his ass when ordering additional executions. Jong Il famously cultivated a $700,000/year cognac indulgence, and it sounds like that sense of entitlement has been well established in young Jong Un, as well as a talent for absolutely shameless hypocrisy.

Corruption is the easiest, most convenient charge by which to have someone executed. The state needs no evidence: it simply announces through KCNA that it has held a trial and the evidence presented was satisfactory, and then another man dies. But DPRK seems to be staffed with a brace of creative writers who are given full license to trump up even reasonable charges into something out of a Kafka novel:

These ranged from “gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party” to “dreaming different dreams” and “creating illusion about himself”. Also accused of “committing irregularities and corruption that led to a dissolute and depraved life,” having “improper relations with several women” and “squandering foreign currency at casinos”…

The article from which that quote comes centers on the horrifying process the security officials undertook on Dec. 13, when they descended upon a block in Pyongyang where Uncle Jang’s immediate and distant relatives lived. All in all, 100 family members have been rounded up and shipped to the prison camps. There is no immunity for anyone related to a criminal, except for perhaps two people.

To date, there has been no word that Kim Kyung Hui, Jong Un’s venerable aunt, has been imprisoned. The last word was that she is being treated outside of North Korea for a heart attack, and perhaps this has spared her the imprisonment that will most assuredly precipitate her death. We’ll find out when and if she recovers: maybe she can take refuge among connections in China, or maybe she’ll be extradited.

Independent of anything being covered in the news, I really want to find out what will happen to Jang Kim Song. If it is known that he is Il Sung’s (illegitimate) child, perhaps he can avoid the prison camp. Yet if this were the case, he should have been heir to rulership when Jong Il died, perhaps. Therefore it may not matter who his true father is and he will starve to death at hard labor like everyone else in his family.

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