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Published: Sunday, 12/15/2013

Purged N. Korean leader’s wife still in good graces

NEW YORK TIMES

SEOUL — Kim Kyong Hui, an aunt of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, appears to have survived the purge and execution of her husband, Jang Song Thaek.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency on Saturday included Kim Kyong Hui on the roster of top officials appointed to a national committee in charge of organizing a state funeral for Kim Kuk Tae, a former party secretary who died Friday at 89. In North Korea, whether an official’s name is included on such a list is an important gauge of whether the official is favored by the government.

Kim Kyong Hui was placed sixth on the list that included most of the top party and military figures.

The list also included Vice Premier Ro Du Chol, one of the people said to have been close to Jang. Recent news reports in South Korea suggested Mr. Ro might be one of the senior North Koreans said to be fleeing a widening political purge after Jang’s downfall.

Jang, 67, was long considered the North’s No. 2 man and Kim Jong Un’s mentor. He was executed Thursday for plotting to overthrow Kim’s government, North Korea announced.

The government indicated it was purging those close to Jang, who was accused of building a network of followers in the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, the government, and the Korean People’s Army.

Jang and his wife had been widely seen as parentlike figures for Kim, helping their nephew establish himself as the supreme leader.

As Jang’s purge unfolded, Kim Kyong Hui’s name also disappeared from news media. Typically, the entire extended family of a traitor is executed or sent to a prison camp in North Korea. Analysts have said Kim Jong Un would be likely to spare Kim Kyong Hui. She is the only sister of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled North Korea before him.



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