A photo taken just before the shocking execution of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek shows that he could have been beaten and tortured.
Jang seemed visibly weary from possible abuse in a photo published in Friday’s North Korean daily Rodong Sinmun, which contrasts the appearance of the once-powerful man who was brave enough to put his hands in his pocket while standing alongside Kim at televised public events. The photo shows Jang with his back hunched while two North Korean guards are grabbing him by his neck and right arm as the 67-year-old stands before a special military tribunal.
In the photo, Jang has dark bruises around his eyes while his right hand seems swollen and bruised. His forehead also looks abnormally white and pale, hinting that North Korean authorities may have put makeup on his face to cover his scars.
“North Korea often takes extreme measures to criminals who are set to be sentenced to death,” an anonymous source familiar with the inner workings of the North Korean government told the Korea Times. “I knew immediately that he was tortured as soon as I saw the photo.”
Jang was executed after he reportedly admitted to forming an anti-state faction and plotting a movement to overthrow the current regime. Torture and beatings may have taken place prior to the execution to force Jang to testify that he did indeed plan a scheme to topple his nephew, whom he once groomed in Switzerland when Kim studied there as a teenager.
By releasing a humiliating photo of Jang, the North Korean government is reportedly trying to strike fear into those who oppose the dictatorial regime. It is speculated that Jang could have been executed with a machine gun, and no proper funeral took place afterwards.
Additionally, South Korean TV network KBS reported that Kim’s aunt and Jang’s wife Kim Kyong-hee may have divorced her husband prior to his execution to steer the public away from resenting Kim for ruthlessly ordering the authorities to kill his uncle.