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Lawmakers say Kim Jong Un's uncle possibly ousted, associates executed

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Feb. 3, 2013: In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed Sunday in Tokyo by the Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea at an undisclosed location of North Korea. (AP)

Two South Korean lawmakers said Tuesday they were told by intelligence officials that two associates of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle were executed last month. They said the uncle has not been seen publicly since then, indicating he may have been dismissed.

Although Jang Song Thaek has reportedly been purged in the past, only to return to power, there was no official word from North Korea about his fate. South Korean intelligence officials have erred previously in predicting changes in the secretive North, and senior North Korean officials occasionally disappear from state media reports and then reappear.

Jang was last seen in North Korean media on Nov. 6. South Korea's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, wouldn't confirm the two lawmakers' details about Jang, which came in a closed-door intelligence briefing. One of the lawmakers, Jung Chung-rae, said the NIS didn't tell him how it obtained the information.

The other lawmaker, Cho Wonjin, said the spy agency reported that North Korean authorities were investigating corruption allegations involving Jang's aides.

Jang is married to former leader Kim Jong Il's sister. He was seen as a powerful influence as young leader Kim Jong Un consolidated power after his father Kim Jong Il's death in December 2011. He walked by Kim Jong Un's side as a hearse carried Kim Jong Il's body through Pyongyang.

Jang holds a slew of top posts, including vice chairmanship of the powerful National Defense Commission and membership in the ruling Workers Party's political bureau. Jang has also been a frequent companion of Kim Jong Un on his tours around the country, as he was for Kim Jong Il. He has also been seen as a leading economic policy official.