|Kim culls uncle’s circle of friends
North Korea is purging officials who had been close to Jang Song Thaek, the once-powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong Un who was executed this month, a South Korean minister said.
Jang, once the North's unofficial number two and Kim's political mentor, was executed on December 12 on a array of charges including treason and corruption.
Seoul's spy chief earlier this month said two of Jang's associates had also been executed, while Pyongyang reportedly recalled some diplomats or trade officials overseas who were believed to have been close to Jang, AFP reports.
“We are seeing signs that those who were deeply involved with Jang are being recalled and purged,'' Ryoo Kihl Jae, South Korea's unification minister in charge of cross-border affairs, told lawmakers.
The purge however appears to be targeting a relatively small circle of officials, Ryoo said, rejecting speculation of a sweeping clear-out of party and military ranks.
“We do not see that it [the purge] is being carried out on a large scale, though it still needs to be seen to what direction it would develop,'' he told members of parliament's foreign affairs committee.
Yonhap news agency said Saturday the North's ambassador to Sweden, Pak Kwang Chol, and his wife had been summoned back to Pyongyang.
Pak, who had taken the post in Sweden in late 2012, was seen at Beijing airport being escorted by North Korean officials before taking the flight to Pyongyang on Saturday, it said, quoting a diplomatic source in China.
Yonhap said earlier this month that Jang's nephew and the North's ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-Chol, had also been recalled.