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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
The direct relatives of the recently executed Jang Song Thaek have all been put to death on the orders of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said on Sunday.
Entire families directly related to Kim Jong Un’s late uncle, who was executed in December for plotting to overthrow the Pyongyang government, were put to death with their children and grandchildren, “multiple sources” told Yonhap News.
Among those allegedly executed were Jang’s brother-in-law and Ambassador to Cuba Jon Yong-jin and Jang’s nephew and Ambassador to Malaysia Jang Yong-chol, the anonymous sources said.
The killings were reported to have taken place after Jang’s own execution on December 12 and designed to “mean that no traces of him should be left.”
Yonhap reported that although some relatives who had resisted arrest had been “shot to death by pistol in front of other people,” others related to Jang through marriage had been exiled to remote villages with their maiden families.
Yonhap’s report, which fitting in with South Korean media culture has been based on anonymous sourcing, has not yet been corroborated and follows a spate of sensational rumors about North Korea in recent weeks.
However, recent events and a traditional “guilt-by-association” culture in North Korea suggest the execution of Jang’s close family members could be true.
In particular, the same Ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia allegedly now executed were spotted on separate occasions en-route to North Korea after being recalled from their overseas diplomatic postings in the wake of Jang’s purge.
And for decades a harsh “guilt-by-association” punishment culture prevailed in North Korea, with entire families facing heavy punishment – including death – simply for being related to convicted political dissidents or defectors.
Yonhap News, which is a publicly funded news agency with close links to the South Korean government and intelligence services, has been wrong on North Korea news in the past, but was the first media organisation to report on the purge of Jang Song Thaek, days before it was announced by North Korean media.
In December Jang Song Thaek was executed for a wide-range of crimes against the state that included plotting a coup, misappropriating resources, and womanizing.
His death was the first public execution of a senior official since the 1950s and stunned many long-time North Korea watchers.