North Korea May Have Exaggerated Kim Jong-un's Uncle's Crimes a Teeny Bit

Kim Jong-un's recently executed uncle, Jang Song-taek, was probably not plotting a coup to overthrow Kim's rule, as Pyongyang charged.

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Kim Jong-un's recently executed uncle Jang Song-taek was probably not planning a coup to overthrow Kim's rule over North Korea, as Pyongyang charged. Instead, Jang was most likely purged after attempting to take a larger role in the state-run mineral exports business, according to South Korea's intelligence chief, .

Until recently, Jang was the 2nd most powerful person in North Korea. He married Kim Jong-il's sister, the aunt of the country's current leader.  But Jang was publicly purged and executed in early December, and state media provided a massive list of Jang's "crimes" as justification. Those included the accusation that he "brought together undesirable forces" in the country to form an opposition faction against Kim. That, the report said, made him a "traitor."

But South Korean intelligence chief Nam Jae-joon thinks Jang and his associates started to seize more control over the country's mineral export industries. The New York Times relays the result:

Mr. Jang’s rivals had gone to Kim Jong-un with accusations of corruption on the part of Mr. Jang and his circle. When Mr. Jang’s associates, perhaps too confident of Mr. Jang’s influence with Mr. Kim, resisted the top North Korean leader’s order to give up some of their business arrangements, Mr. Kim saw it as a challenge to his authority, according to Mr. Nam.

According to Nam, Kim's aunt Kim Kyong-hui was not among those purged following this dispute. That's after her absence at an important state event, just days after her husband's execution. Members of Jang's extended family, however, may not be so lucky: "hundreds" of his relatives, including distant ones, were reportedly carted away to prison camps in the country as part of the purge.

Meanwhile, Dennis Rodman completed his third visit to the dictatorship, without revealing whether he was able to meet with his friend Kim Jong-un or not. As of Sunday night, the two had not met. Rodman was in the country to put together a North Korean basketball team, apparently for Kim's birthday in January. Rodman, who is fond of saying that he is "not a politician" and just visits North Korea for basketball-related good times. He tends to shy away from bringing up American interests to his dictator friend, including questions about the fate of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.