July 03, 2013 09:18
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's widow appears to have fallen victim to a purge by the new regime, Radio Free Asia said on Tuesday.
Kim Ok and her father Kim Hyo, a senior official in the Workers Party's Finance and Accounting Department, "has recently been dismissed from all their posts," RFA quoted an informed source as saying. "They may have fallen victim to a political purge."
The defector-run radio station speculated that young leader Kim Jong-un has sacked his stepmother to tighten his own grip on power.
"Rumors are circulating in the North that the regime has forced all the old guard from the Kim Jong-il era to retire," another source said. "Kim Ok may be part of that move."
Right after he took power, Kim Jong-un attempted to purge the powerful military elite from the Kim Jong-il era, getting rid of army chief Ri Yong-ho and first deputy director of the State Security Department U Dong-chuk.
There have also been rumors that Kim Ok attempted suicide twice in early 2012, right after Kim Jong-il died. In July she defied doubters by accompanying Kim Jong-un on a tour of a new amusement park in Pyongyang, but since then she has disappeared from public view.
Media reports said she was seen receiving hospital treatment in Beijing and Berlin.
The source said that after Kim Jong-il's death, Kim Ok curried favor with Kim Jong-il's sister Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Song-taek, who is seen as the eminence grise behind the new regime, and was therefore guaranteed a degree of safety. "If she retired, it may have been for health reasons," the source added.
Chung Sung-jang of the Sejong Institute said Kim Ok was simply no longer needed. "Her main duty was to manage Kim Jong-il's schedule, and when Kim Jong-un took power she had nothing to do. Her father's dismissal also was a natural process that took place in a transition period," he said.
Kim Ok studied piano at the Pyongyang University of Music and Dance and became a secretary to Kim senior in 1980. She became his acting wife after the death in 2004 of Ko Yong-hui, his third wife and Kim Jong-un's mother.
Kim Ok is rumored to have a son under the age of 10 with Kim Jong-il, but that has not been confirmed.
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