Jang Song Thaek
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to have dismissed a powerful uncle, a man key to his rise to power, from his posts, South Korean lawmakers said on Tuesday, a move that could help consolidate his power base with a younger guard of aides. Reuters

North Korea’s de facto second in command, and uncle to Kim Jong Un, the dictator of the reclusive nation, has reportedly been ousted from his position.

South Korean media cites reports from the nation’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, which claim that Jang Song Thaek, the vice chairman of North Korea’s decision-making group, the National Defense Commission, has been removed from power after the reported public execution of Jang’s two close aides in November.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap News, Jung Chung-rae, one lawmaker who was briefed by the NIS, said Jang’s aides were executed last month on allegations of corruption. The NIS, however, has not specified how this information was obtained.

67-year-ol Jang has been a prominent figure in the North Korean regime, particularly after marrying into the Kim family, through the late Kim Jong Il’s sister. He is widely noted as one of the biggest influencers in helping Kim Jong Un take over as the nation’s leader in after his father’s sudden death in December of 2011. Kim largely inherited an existing regime, but as he begins to get comfortable ruling the nation, he has begun replacing many of the regime's older generals and political leaders, with younger people of his choosing.

North Korea experts at Washington, D.C.-based NK News, tracked Jang’s photographed appearances, noting that Jang’s public sightings have been on the decline. South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is the South Korean body that handles inter-Korean issues, confirmed that Jang was last seen in a meeting with Japanese politician Kanji Inoki on Nov. 6, also noting that Jang had been seen significantly less in comparison to previous years.

Jang Song Thaek infographic
North Korea's No. 2 leader, and Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, has reportedly been removed from his post and has disappeared from public sightings. NK News

Earlier in his career, Jang was frequently seen with Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, accompanying the leadership on domestic trips but also outside the country, particularly in China. According to the Wall Street Journal, Jang was very interested in China’s economic growth and reforms after a visit, and had a hand in promoting specialized trade zones on the North Korea-China border.

While South Korea is reporting Jang’s removal from power, Jang had disappeared from the public eye in the past, the most recent instance being from 2003 to 2006.