Dangerous women behind the scenes in North Korea
In the scant collection of carefully-staged photos that emerge from North Korea, Jang Song-thaek was everywhere.The daughter committed suicide when they objected to her choice in marriage. In the hermit kingdom any action is possible on the whim of its leadership such as it is.
At the funeral of Kim Jong-il, marching directly behind Kim Jong-un, the newly anointed Dear Leader; on an escalator, visiting a shopping centre to glorify the triumph of the regime; dressed in the uniform of a full general whispering words of wisdom into the ear of the world’s youngest head of state.
Now Jang, Mr Kim’s uncle and one of North Korea’s most powerful men, has been erased.
The reclusive communist state confirmed his execution on Thursday. The 30-year-old Mr Kim, it appeared, was demonstrating in no uncertain terms who really ran the show.
But another tantalising suggestion is crystallising. Was Jang’s death by firing squad a sign that the real power behind the throne lies with the two women in Mr Kim’s life?
"The final decision on Jang Song-thaek was made by Kim Jong-un and Jang’s wife, Kim Kyung-hui," said Lee Yun-keol, the head of the North Korea Strategic Information Service Centre, based in Seoul. "Jang was chosen as a prey by his wife and nephew to maintain the Kim dynasty regime."
The 67-year-old Kim Kyung-hui is a force to be reckoned with – daughter of the country’s first leader, sister of its second and aunt of its third.
A Rosa Klebb-like figure, she went into communist politics early and defied her father, the Eternal President of the Republic, Kim Il-sung, to marry Jang.
The couple had met at university in the capital, Pyongyang, and continued their relationship. She followed him to Moscow, where they both studied, they were married in 1972 and they went on to have a daughter, Jang Kum-song.