Perhaps none of the reasons given for the purging of Jang Song-thaek the second most powerful man in North Korea as the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission back in December 2013—factionalism, corruption, and political ambition—was the real reason for his downfall.
What really caused the Korean leader Kim Jong Un to take out his own uncle, was Jang’s secret exchange of words with then Chinese leader Hu Jintao in August 2012. On Feb. 22 overseas Chinese news website Boxun reported on the event that took place in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
During the hourlong, closed-door meeting with Hu, Jang raised the issue of having Kim Jong Un replaced with his paternal half-brother Kim Jong Nam. The only other person present in the meeting was a Chinese translator.
According to Boxun, Hu did not give any indication whether he supported or opposed the idea. However, then Chinese domestic czar Zhou Yongkang learned of the secret conversation and passed on the dialogue to Kim Jong Un, Boxun reports.
Jang was eventually tried by a special military tribunal of the Ministry of State and executed on Dec. 12, 2013, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Zhou had a close relationship with both Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, as Zhou was considered to be the go-to guy for any form of communication between the Kims and the Chinese authorities, according to the Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily on Feb. 23.
During Zhou’s visit with a Chinese entourage to North Korea in October 2010, Zhou was the only foreigner present at a large military parade where Kim Jong Un was officially named by his father to be the heir, the next supreme leader. Zhou’s sole presence indicated that Kim was asking Zhou to look after his son, according to Oriental Daily.
When Zhou was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party in December 2014, regime mouthpiece Xinhua detailed a long list of transgressions Zhou was said to have committed.
Back then, one crime seemed out of place—divulging Party and state secrets. According to Boxun’s report, Zhou divulged such secrets in relation to North Korea and its supreme leader.