Before Kim Killed His Uncle, There Was a Firefight

Picture of what led to Jang Song Thaek's execution coming together
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2013 10:18 AM CST
Before Kim Killed His Uncle, There Was a Firefight
College students wearing masks of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, top, and his uncle Jang Song Thaek perform during a press conference denouncing Kim's dictatorship.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Yesterday it was reported that Jang Song Thaek met his end not because of a planned coup, but because of a business disagreement. The New York Times reported by way of South Korea's head of intelligence that Jang and his associates were unwilling to give up control of major business deals—and today the Times has much more vivid details on that front, per South Korean and US officials. It explains that North Korea's three most profitable exports are coal, clams, and crabs. A military force of 150 was dispatched in late September or early October to retake control of some crab and clam fishing grounds from Jang. A firefight ensued.

The military forces, described by the Times as "emaciated" and "poorly trained," were crushed by Jang's associates; two soldiers reportedly died. The Times sees this as the "final straw" for Kim Jong Un, who was apparently fretting over both his control of the military and his fortune. (Kim had transferred some of the fishing rights to his Cabinet after his father's death, at which time Jang apparently put them under his control.) Kim ordered a larger force to attack again; it was triumphant. Soon after, two of Jang's top men were executed ... using antiaircraft machine guns, notes the Times. (The execution order was supposedly issued by a "very drunk" Kim.)

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