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North Korea purges Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle

SEOUL--North Korea announced Monday it had sacked leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, long considered the country's No. 2 power, saying corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and generally leading a “dissolute and depraved life” had caused Pyongyang's highest-profile fall from grace since Kim took power two years ago.

The removal of Jang Song Thaek, once seen as Kim's mentor, is the most significant in a series of purges the young leader has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power since his father's 2011 death. But worries remained over whether the expulsion of such a senior figure could instead lead to less stability and open up the possibility of a power struggle.

The dispatch from the North's state media came about a week after South Korea's spy agency said two of Jang's closest assistants had been executed for corruption. With tensions on the Korean Peninsula still high following a torrent of threats in March and April by Kim's government against Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, there were fears in Seoul that confusion in the North could lead to a miscalculation or attack. Analysts believe Pyongyang has a handful of crude nuclear bombs.

South Korea's defense ministry said there have been no suspicious military movements, however.

The allegations against Jang, 67, couldn't be independently confirmed, and there was no mention of further punishment for Jang. State TV showed images of two uniformed guards holding Jang by the arms at a meeting of the country's Political Bureau.

Jang, seen by outsiders as the North's leading supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms, has reportedly been cast down before only to return to power. But Monday's announcement was especially shrill, even by the standards of North Korea's state media, suggesting this time he won't be coming back.

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Before and after photos of still grabs taken from the documentary “The Great Comrade,” re-broadcast on North Korean state broadcaster KCTV on Saturday, Dec. 7, show scenes from the original version, left, broadcast on Oct. (AFP)

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