The reported ouster of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek calls into question the fate of his wife, leader Kim Jong-un's aunt on his father's side.
There are rumors that Kim Kyong-hui tried to dissuade her nephew from stripping Jang of his posts, but her pleas went unheeded.
Democratic Party lawmaker Jung Chung-rae of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee here on Tuesday quoted the National Intelligence Service as saying that "although Kim Kyong-hui's relationship with Jang was not good, she reportedly told Kim Jong-un that firing him would be a step too far." But her advice was not accepted, according to Jung.
But another lawmaker on the committee, Cho Won-jin of the Saenuri Party, said the story is unconfirmed.
Marital discord and the suicide of her daughter in 2006 pushed Kim Kyong-hui into alcoholism and depression. Since the death of her older brother Kim Jong-il in December 2011, she has reportedly been suffering from stress, and in official photographs she looks ill.
Some believe that her bad health and her diminishing power may be one of the reasons for Jang's fall.
Prof. Koh Yoo-hwan at Dongguk University said since Kim Kyong-hui is a blood relative of Kim Jong-un and therefore sacrosanct under the North’s peculiar dynastic ideology. "She can't be purged, but it's possible that the regime leadership are trying to gradually sap hew power."
But Prof. Kim Keun-sik at Kyungnam University said, "Kim Kyong-hui is a symbolic figure and a direct descendant" of nation founder Kim Il-sung. "Her relationship with her husband wasn't very good anyway, so his downfall may not affect her that much."