SEOUL - 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.
Jang Song Thaek was likely sacked as vice chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission and as a department head of the ruling Workers' Party, lawmaker Jung Cheong-rae said, citing a senior South Korean official with the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
Analysts who watch the North's power structure say Jang's removal would not have been possible without the approval of the third Kim to rule in the family dynasty.
The move is likely to tip the balance in favour of another close aide - the top political operative for the army, which could mean a symbolic victory for the 1.2-million-strong military.
Choe Ryong Hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, has been the most prominent figure to accompany Kim at public events and is a reminder of the state's political roots in military power.
There was no immediate mention of Jang's fate on North Korea's KCNA news agency, the primary source of information on the impoverished country for outsiders and which regularly carries editorials threatening the wealthy, democratic South and the United States with destruction.
Two members of the South Korean parliament's Intelligence Committee told separate news briefings that the NIS had confirmed the public execution of two close aides to Jang in the North's ruling Workers' Party for corruption.
"The briefing by an NIS senior official was that they believe Jang Song Thaek has lost his posts," Jung, who is the ranking opposition member of the intelligence committee, said.
"Following (the executions), the NIS said it believes Jang Song Thaek has not been seen and has lost his posts," Jung told the briefing.
A ruling party member of the committee held a separate news briefing and delivered a similar report.
The removal of Jang, a key figure in the power transition following the 2011 death of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, could tip the balance in the fiercely competitive group of confidants surrounding the current leader but was unlikely to impact on Kim Jong Un's hold on power, experts said.