Did Kim Jong-un Execute His Uncle to Send a Message to China?

The World
How It Works
Dec. 12 2013 5:39 PM

Did Kim Jong-un Execute His Uncle to Send a Message to China?

Out of the picture.

Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

In its characteristically unhinged style, North Korea’s Central News Agency reports that Kim Jong-un’s uncle and mentor Jang Song-thaek, or “despicable human scum Jang,” as they describe him, has been executed.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Jang, accused of disloyalty as well as crimes including gambling, drug use, and womanizing, was removed from his senior leadership position in the Korean Workers' Party and the National Defense Commission, in an unusually public purge a few days ago and has been conspicuously edited out of official images.


Many had speculated that Jang was something of a power behind the throne, so his ouster will probably be read as North Korea’s new leader consolidating his power.

It’s also likely to be viewed with some alarm in Beijing, the North Korean regime’s major patron. Jang had made several official trips to China and reportedly had a good relationship with Chinese leaders. Jang had overseen the development of several special economic zones co-adminstered with China and may have been a supporter of Chinese-style market reforms.

The New YorkTimes notes that “among the crimes that Mr. Jang was said to have committed was selling resources cheaply, an accusation that appears to have been aimed directly at China, the biggest buyer of North Korea’s iron ore and minerals.” 

The nationalist Chinese Global Times newspaper speculates that Jang’s downfall probably won’t have a major impact on ties between the two countries but does mean there’s a “decrease of China hands among North Korea's leaders, and the younger generation in the regime lack experience in dealing with China.”  

The paper also notes speculation that Kim may move up a planned trip to China next year. With some signs that the Chinese government is growing increasingly impatient with the hermit state to the south, that should be an interesting trip to watch.  



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
Oct. 21 2014 8:38 AM An Implanted Wearable Gadget Isn’t as Crazy as You’d Think Products like New Deal Design’s UnderSkin may be the future.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.