Did Kim Jong-un's Brother Mastermind Jang's Ouster?

Kim Jong-chol Kim Jong-chol

The man who orchestrated the ouster of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek may have been leader Kim Jong-un's low-profile older brother Jong-chol, an expert here claimed Monday.

Lee Yun-keol of the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center told the Chosun Ilbo that Kim Jong-chol "personally led" a team of soldiers protecting Kim Jong-un to arrest Jang.

Lee said Kim Jong-chol was also behind the executions of Jang's close confidants Ri Yong-ha and Jang Su-gil, who were both high-ranking officials in the Workers Party.

"Politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae does not have the power to arrest Jang, and the State Security Agency wouldn't be allowed to intervene," Lee said. "Kim Jong-chol led the purge mobilizing his brother's bodyguards and state security agents."

Lee claimed the information was confirmed by a source in the military corps protecting the North Korean leader and that the arrest occurred around Nov. 8 after "careful planning."

A will left by former leader Kim Jong-il did not specifically name Jang but warned against "factionalists hiding behind the scenes" and stressed the need to prepare for resistance from them. Accordingly, Kim Jong-un, Jong-chol, their half sister Sul-song and aunt Kim Kyong-hui began preparing for Jang's ouster last year, Lee said.

When Jang became the de facto interim leader after Kim Jong-il suffered a massive stroke in 2008, Jang eliminated several party heavyweights who stood in his way, such as Ri Je-gang and Ri Yong-chol, and planted his own confidants in key posts.

In order to keep Jang in check, Kim Jong-un apparently tapped Polituburo chief Choe.

Lee said, "Kim Jong-un and Jong-chol often meet at the weekend to discuss matters. Jong-chol watches over his younger brother's security."

The North Korean leader secretly formed a taskforce headed by Jong-chol to plan Jang's ouster, made up of a few hand-picked officials from the bodyguard unit.

The taskforce submitted a report on Jang's offenses in early November to Kim Jong-un, which led to the public executions of Jang's confidants and the eventual arrest of the eminence grise himself, according to Lee.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 10, 2013 10:47 KST