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(LEAD) TV footage further hints at purge of N. Korean leader's uncle

All Headlines 22:46 December 07, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with details, expert comments in para 3, 8-12; ADDS photos)

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's powerful uncle was removed from a re-run of a documentary film aired on the country's main TV station Saturday, reinforcing speculation that he has been ousted from power.

Earlier this week, Seoul's spy agency said Jang Song-thaek appears to have been removed from all of his party posts, with two of his close confidants being publicly executed in connection with the reported purge.

In a documentary footage broadcast by the North's Korean Central Television Station which was monitored by Yonhap News Agency, Jang, a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, was found to be conspicuously removed from a total of 13 scenes.

The film recorded leader Kim's inspection trip to a military unit.

In the original version, aired nine times on the same television in October, had shown Jang closely accompanying the leader during the inspection trip by, for example, walking side by side with Kim and clapping hands while the leader shook hands with a commander.

Cutting Jang out of the footage could be a strong indication that his reported purge is true, analysts said, adding North Korea did the same when someone fell out the regime's favor.

Back in 2010, the North reportedly executed Pak Nam-ki, former chief of the planning and finance department of the ruling Workers' Party, over its botched currency reform the previous year, and then eliminated him from all documentary films.

Though the communist country has remained silent about Jang's fate, the re-run of the documentary for the first time in 40 days appears to be Pyongyang's deliberate act, according to the analysts.

"His disappearance from the video indicates that he would not make a comeback in the future," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

"I think he would not attend the scheduled ceremony on December 17 to mark the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il," he added.

Kim Jong-il, predecessor and father of the North's current leader Kim Jong-un, died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, 2011. The anniversary is a major event for North Korea and its leadership.

The researcher also noted that no major North Korean figures have returned to public life after their images were cut out of documentary films as Jang's.


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