April 18, 2014 12:00
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt Kim Kyong-hui, the widow of executed eminence grise Jang Song-taek, has disappeared from documentary footage shown on North Korean TV since February. This has led to speculation that she too has fallen victim to the violent purge.
In a re-run of a documentary aired on North Korean Central TV on Tuesday, a scene in which Kim Kyong-hui appeared had been replaced.
Until January this year, Kim Kyong-hui was often seen with her nephew and his wife. The scene in the film showed her with the couple walking toward the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to pay tribute to the embalmed bodies of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
But since then the scene has been cut and replaced with footage showing only Kim Jong-un and his wife paying tribute along with other officials.
"It seems that Kim Kyong-hui stepped down from major positions in the party, but we need additional verification to see whether she was ousted," a Unification Ministry official here said Thursday.
Kim Kyong-hui was last seen in public at a concert on Sept. 9, 2013. Her name was among top officials on a committee organizing the state funeral of senior Workers' Party official Kim Kuk-thae, but she did not make an appearance.
At the time there were rumors that she is dead or gravely ill.
Although she enjoys some protection as a direct descendant of nation founder Kim Il-sung, she is still associated with a man publicly denounced as a traitor.
The recent rise of Kim Jong-un's younger sister Yo-jong and her appointment to high positions in the Workers' Party may be an attempt by the regime to fill the void left by Kim Kyong-hui.
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