SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Jang Song Thaek rose from a municipal bureaucrat to North Korea's No. 2 official — behind only leader Kim Jong Un.
But his ties were more than political: Jang was Kim's uncle, married to the leader's aunt, Kim Kyong Hui.
Jang's execution, announced early Friday, marked an unprecedented fall from grace of one of the most powerful figures in the country as well as its most serious political upheaval in decades.
The 67-year-old Jang held the posts of vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party.
In late 2008, Jang was assumed to be serving in a regency role while the young Kim Jong Un was being groomed to succeed his father, Kim Jong Il. Jang often accompanied Kim Jong Un on guidance trips and stood at his elbow at public events.
A well-traveled operator with a network that spread to China, Jang was considered the chief architect of economic policy that focused on partnering North Korea with its neighbor and ally.