Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law on the rise


Jang Song Taek (left), the uncle of new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) with four-star insignia on his epaulettes, pays his respects to the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.


North Korean Central TV

The quest for clues to piece together North Korea continues.

The latest is the TV appearance of Jang Song Taek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, who was pictured Sunday while paying respects to Kim Jong Il's body, in full military uniform for the first time.

Usually, Jang had been pictured in a suit and tie.

More from GlobalPost: In-depth series on what's next for North Korea

The four stars on Jang's shoulders, circled below in a photo from Korean state media, confirms his military status as a four-star general and "suggests that he is serving as the regent overseeing Kim Jong Un's fledgling regime," according to Chosun Ibo.

In the photo below, Jang appears on the left, and Kim Jong Un in the center.

In the insert on the upper right, released last Tuesday, Jang wears a Mao suit like Kim Jong Un.

Jang Song-taek (left), the uncle of new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) with four-star insignia on his epaulettes, pays his respects to the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a photo released Sunday by the North Korean Central TV. In the photo (insert) released last Tuesday, he wears a Mao suit like Kim Jong-un. /[North] Korean Central TV

Where did Jang come from?

In his piece for GlobalPost immediately after Kim Jong Il's death Dec. 17, Bradley K. Martin, author of "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty," pointed out that he has been there all along.

He appeared to serve as Kim Jong Il's right-hand man since the Dear Leader became seriously ill a few years ago. His rise as the power-behind-the-throne was therefore expected. Martin wrote:

Important factors to consider regarding Jang are that he has been deeply involved in trade and financial transactions — to the extent Kim Jong Il reportedly punished him by sending him away for “correction by labor” when he was caught in corrupt schemes — and that he has been close to the North Korean military and to the Chinese.

While Jang had a largely civilian career, his brothers were promoted to general officer rank in the North Korean People’s Army. That connection on top of his in-law relationship with Kim Jong Il has been a major source of influence for him.