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Ousting of N. Korean leader's uncle from power to affect economic projects

2013/12/06 11:51

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- The likely ousting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle from power could affect economic development projects underway in the communist country, local sources said Friday.

The assessment comes after South Korea's spy agency announced Tuesday that Jang Song-thaek, the vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, may have been stripped of all his posts and that two of his closest associates have been publicly executed. There have been reports that his relatives in foreign diplomatic missions are being called back home and that his subordinates are being rounded up by authorities for corruption and other offences.

The 67-year-old Jang had been viewed as a key figure advocating economic reforms, and played an integral part in the high profile special economic zones in Hwanggumpyong and Rason.

He also has close ties with China, Pyongyang's main supporter and most important trading partner.

Reflecting this, Seoul's unification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers earlier in the week that some special economic district's will be affected because of the role played by Jang in the creation process.

In addition, operations at the Committee of Investment and Joint Venture, where Jang is known to have many associates, will likely be affected, and could hurt economic cooperation with foreign companies.

Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute, said there are certain joint projects that China pushed forward because they trusted Jang.

"Trade and operations, such as the dispatching of North Korean laborers to foreign countries, will probably be hit," the expert said.

On the other hand, official sources hinted that while Jang may have lost power, there is always the possibility he may be reinstated down the line.

"While two of Jang's confidants were executed in late November, there does not seem to by any changes to people in economic or industry-related ministerial positions who were linked to the leader's uncle," said an official source, requesting anonymity.

There have been speculations that Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju may be purged because of his ties with Jang, but he recently sent a congratulatory message to Thailand to mark the country's national holiday.

yonngong@yna.co.kr

(END)

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