The ouster and execution of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek may have been planned or foreseen by former leader Kim Jong-il, according to the rumor mill.
Sources have claimed that Kim senior warned his son, current leader Kim Jong-un, against Jang's overweening ambitions, which became apparent when he took over as quasi-regent after Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke in 2008.
Lee Yun-keol of the North Korea Strategy Information Service Center said Kim Jong-il was wary of Jang's growing power and support base and left a will "warning his son to watch out."
He added that Jang appointed his cronies to key posts after Kim Jong-il's stroke and gained access to "secret reports the Workers Party Politburo submitted to Kim."
The late North Korean leader belatedly discovered this and was "furious." In other words, Jang had been spotted as a potential problem even before Kim Jong-un came to power.
In this mysterious will, Kim Jong-il is said to have warned his son to watch out for "dissenters within our ranks" and to "prepare for threats," although Jang is not mentioned by name.
Ryu Dong-ryeol of the Police Science Institute said, "It's possible that Kim Jong-il told his son to watch out for Jang Song-taek, since he could change without warning. Kim Jong-il had always considered Jang ambitious."
A member of the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University said Kim Jong-il tried in vain to quell Jang's burning ambition by sacking him twice for dissent -- in 1978 and in 2004. But Jang was in some ways indispensable and bounced back every time.
Supporting this view are reports that Kim Jong-un's older brother Jong-chol and half sister Sol-song took the lead in Jang's ouster, while his wife Kim Kyong-hui, who is Kim Jong-il's sister, did not object.
But other experts are unconvinced by the rumors. They say it is clear that Jang was tasked with protecting Kim Jong-u, so there would have to be a more recent reason to purge him. One informed source said, "Nobody has seen the will. I wonder what the basis is for such speculation."