Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un's aunt Kim Kyong-hui appears safe from fate of husband

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 December, 2013, 2:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 10:22am

The powerful aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un remains a part of the regime's inner circle even after the execution last week of her husband, the No 2 of the isolated nation.

Kim Kyong-hui, daughter of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, has been named as one of the funeral committee members for a senior party official, a prestigious position, according to the country's state media.

Her husband Jang Song-thaek was executed last week.

Her name appeared in a dispatch alongside top officials in a committee for Kim Kuk-thae, the chairman of the Control Commission of the ruling Workers' Party, who died on Friday.

Her name was placed sixth in a sequence that listed more than 50 funeral committee members, according to news agency KCNA. The funeral committee list is one of few indications of North Korean officials' status.

Some analysts said she may be spared her husband's fate because she was one of the few blood relatives of young leader Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

Cai Jian, deputy director of Fudan University's Centre for Korean Studies, said the dispatch suggested Kim Kyong-hui's political standing had not been immediately affected by her husband's execution, and that she might even have given her nephew permission to execute Jang.

"Her being on the committee member list is a sign that Jang's purging may have taken place after Kim Kyong-hui agreed to let Kim Jong-un do it," Cai said. "Being Jang's wife, she probably didn't actively support such a move, but her consent to it was likely needed."

Meanwhile, North Korea's ambassador to China, Ji Jae-ryong, one of Jang's close aides who analysts said could also face a purge, was conducting duties as usual, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported yesterday citing Pyongyang's state media.

Ji's fate was in doubt after two of Jang's close aides - Lee Yong-ha and Jang Su-gil, both at the vice-minister level - were executed last month as the purge, believed to be aimed at solidifying Kim's grip, broadened.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Watch: North Korean ministers denounce Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song-thaek