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North Korea leader Kim Jong-un made headlines this week after reportedly ordering the execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek. The men were said to be clashing over the country’s lucrative fishing and coal industries, and there are also rumors that Mr. Kim was drunk when he ordered the slaying.

Mr. Jang, once considered the second-most powerful man in North Korea, was handed power of the country’s chief exports by Mr. Kim when the 30-year-old leader took over from his late father two years ago. According to the New York Times, the 67-year-old Mr. Jang’s control of the coal, fishing and other business interests profited him only and set the stage for a failed military intervention from his nephew’s forces.

From the Times:

North Korean military forces were deployed to retake control of one of the sources of those exports, the rich crab and clam fishing grounds that Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the country’s untested, 30-year-old leader, had seized from the military. In the battle for control of the fishing grounds, the emaciated, poorly trained North Korean forces “were beaten — very badly — by Uncle Jang’s loyalists,” according to one official.

The rout of his forces appears to have been the final straw for Mr. Kim, who saw his 67-year-old uncle as a threat to his authority over the military and, just as important, to his own family’s dwindling sources of revenue. Eventually, at Mr. Kim’s order, the North Korean military came back with a larger force and prevailed. Soon, Mr. Jang’s two top lieutenants were executed.

Mr. Jang was executed late last week, with the country denouncing him as a traitor. Details surrounding the happenings leading up to the execution continue to emerge but nothing has been justly confirmed.

A Japanese news publication reported Monday (December 23) that Mr. Kim was “very drunk” when he ordered the execution, apparently in response to the uncle’s aforementioned lieutenants saying that an order from the leader had be cleared by Mr. Jang first.


Photo:  Kyodo/Landov