North Korean state media say Kim Jong Un's uncle has been executed, calling the leader's former mentor "worse than a dog."
The announcement early Friday comes days after Pyongyang announced that Jang Song Thaek had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and generally leading a "dissolute and depraved life."
Jang was considered the second most powerful official in the North. He was seen as helping Kim Jong Un consolidate power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. Jang was the latest and most significant in a series of personnel reshuffles that Kim has conducted in an apparent effort to bolster his power.
The execution of Jang comes after South Korean media reports that one of his aides has sought asylum in South Korea.
The unidentified aide, who managed funds for Jang, was being protected by South Korean officials in a secret location in China, cable news network YTN and the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper said, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Jang was removed from all his posts and expelled from the ruling Workers' Party during a meeting of its politburo on Sunday, the North's official KCNA news agency said. Kim Jong Un attended and "guided" the meeting, it said.
North Korean state television showed a still photograph of Jang being hauled away by uniformed guards from a large conference hall as it reported on the politburo meeting.
Kim's uncle has also been airbrushed out of pictures and video footage and experts said his name was no longer searchable on the KCNA database.
"Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution," KCNA said, without saying if Jang had been detained or charged with any crime.
The report also did not refer to Jang's aide, whose defection, if confirmed, would be the most serious for North Korea in 15 years.
The decision to remove Jang was widely reported in North Korea's media including on the front page of the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday, in contrast to the dismissal of officials in the past which were almost never reported.
The Rodong Sinmun carried a picture of what it said was the politburo meeting. Jang and Kim Kyong Hui, Jang's wife and aunt to the young leader, were among 17 politburo members. Neither could be seen in the photo.
But Kim's aunt, the daughter of the North's founding leader Kim Il Sung, was not in trouble, a source with close ties to Pyongyang told Reuters.
Last week a South Korean official said Jang was likely alive and in no immediate physical danger, as was his wife.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service last week said it believed Jang had been relieved of his posts in November. It also said two of Jang's close associates were executed recently for corruption.
Pyongyang is undergoing its biggest leadership upheaval since the death in 2011 of former leader Kim Jong Il, the younger Kim's father.
Among Jang's senior party and military posts, he was vice chairman of the country's top military body, the National Defense Commission.
Jang had close ties to China and visited Beijing in 2012 on behalf of Kim. He was also head of the North Korean side of a joint project managing a special economic zone with Beijing.
In listing reasons why Jang was dismissed, KNCA said, "Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts (such) as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scene."
"Affected by the capitalist way of living, Jang committed irregularities and corruption and led a dissolute and depraved life."
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.
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