Kim Jong-un
Displaying his military awareness to more experienced members of the armed forces, in an image from Korean state television. Reuters / KCNA

Is Kim Jong-un's uncle really the one calling the shots in North Korea?

Citing South Korea's Chosun newspaper, the Telegraph reported on Monday that Jang Song-taek, married to the sister of deceased leader and Eternal Chairman Kim Jong-il, has climbed the secretive inner circle and now has the ear of the country's new, young leader.

"The shadow of Jang Song-taek looms large" over Kim, Baek Seung-joo at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, told Chosun.

Jang's rise to power has coincided with the sudden dismissals of his high ranking rivals, such as former spy chief Ryu Kyong, who "disappeared" after being accused of treason, as well as former army chief Ri Yong-ho, and ex-party and security department director U Dong-chuk.

Additionally, Ri Je-gang, the first deputy director of the Workers Party's Organization and Guidance Department and "Jang's greatest rival," died in a mysterious car crash days before one of Jang's promotions, according to the Telegraph.

Kim Jong-il is said to have personally set up the government-military support system around his son before his death last year. Baek believes that Kim Jong-un would not yet disrupt his advisory structure so early into his career, meaning that Jang's ascension is his own doing.