N. Korea’s Kim hails uncle’s execution

By Jung Ha-Won, AFP

SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un called for unity in a New Year message Wednesday and hailed the execution of his once-powerful uncle as a resolute act to remove “factionalist scum.” “Our party took resolute action to remove … factionalist scum within the party last year,” Kim said in his message broadcast on state TV. It was his first public comment on the shock execution last month of Jang Song-Thaek, once the country’s unofficial number two and Kim’s political mentor, although the young leader did not mention him by name. “Our party’s timely, accurate decision to purge the anti-party, anti-revolutionary and factionalist elements helped greatly cement unity of the party and the revolution and strengthened our solidarity by 100 times,” Kim said.

Kim’s tone was strong as he called for nationwide ideological education and political awareness to eliminate “even the slightest phenomenon and element” undermining unity. “It is necessary to establish stringent revolutionary discipline and order in all domains of the revolutionary struggle and construction work,” he said, pledging a crackdown on “any sort of alien ideology and decadent lifestyle.” Jang’s purge and execution was staged in an extraordinarily public and brutal fashion. A party statement denounced him as “human scum” and a drug-addicted womanizer who pocketed state money to support his decadent lifestyle.

Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said the speech underlined Kim’s desire to portray himself as an unchallenged and stable leader, two years after he took power. “He is sending a message to its people that, with Jang gone, now let’s put the purge behind and look to the future based on firm unity among the party, military and the government,” Yang said.

Jang played a key role in cementing the leadership of the inexperienced Kim, who took over after the death of his father and long-time ruler Kim Jong-Il in December 2011.

But analysts said Jang’s growing political power and intervention in the lucrative coal trade was resented by his young nephew.

In his message Kim struck a rare relatively conciliatory note with South Korea, after extreme tensions in the spring of last year.

He called for a “favorable climate” to improve relations, saying it was “high time” for the two Koreas to stop doing “anything detrimental to national unity and reconciliation.” “We will join hands with anyone who opts to give priority to the nation and wishes for its reunification, regardless of his or her past, and continue to strive for better inter-Korean relations,” he said.