Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang, March 31, 2013. Reuters/KCNA

The widow of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has been ousted from all of her party positions. According to Radio Free Asia, Kim Ok, the wife of the late leader, and her father Kim Hyo, a senior official in the Workers Party’s Finance and Accounting Department, have been “recently dismissed from all their posts.”

The radio station, based in Seoul and run by North Korean defectors, quoted anonymous sources confirming that Kim Ok and her father had been sacked by the new regime led by her stepson Kim Jong-Un. “Rumors are circulating in the North that the regime has forced all the old guard from the Kim Jong-Il era to retire,” the source told RFA. “Kim Ok may be part of that move,” the source added, while another said “they may have fallen victim to a political purge.”

According to a report by British newspaper The Telegraph, expelling Kim is a move that will allow Kim Jong-Un to firm his grip on the regime because she knows too many high-level secrets. “Until now, Kim treated her well but now she has become an obstacle to him.” Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and North Korea affairs expert, said in the report. “She knew the process behind Kim Jong-Un becoming leader of North Korea, over his older brother, and there are also suggestions that Kim Ok had a son with Kim Jong-Il.” .

The son is reportedly 10 years old, and could pose a threat to Kim Jong-un when he grows older. “If Kim Ok was not plotting against Kim Jong-Un, then she may be exiled outside Pyongyang or she may be placed under house arrest,” Shigemura added. “But if she was actively working against him or had joined an opposing faction in the party or the military, then she will be sent to prison camp. To say anything against Kim Jong-Un’s legitimacy is very dangerous in North Korea.”

The 48-year-old Kim Ok was Kim Jong-Il’s fourth wife, and was first a North Korean government employee before being promoted to Kim Jong-Il’s personal secretary in the 1980s up until his death. After the death of Kim’s third wife, Ko Young-Hui, in 2004, Kim Ok took on the role of first lady of the regime, de facto.