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North Korean leader says purge was a cleansing of 'filth'

A man walks past televisions showing reports on the execution of Jang Song Thaek, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, at an elec
A man walks past televisions showing reports on the execution of Jang Song Thaek, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, at an elec

By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first reference to the execution of his powerful uncle in a New Year's address, saying the reclusive state's ruling party had become stronger after it was purged of "factional filth."

And he called for better relations with South Korea, warning that another war on the Korean peninsula would cause a massive nuclear disaster that would hit the United States.

Kim, the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, did not refer by name to his uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed last month in a rare public purge for crimes against the ruling Workers' Party and harming national interest.

"Our party took a firm measure to get rid of factional filth that permeated the party," Kim said in a broadcast on state television that appeared to be pre-recorded, without showing if he was speaking to an audience.

"Our unity strengthened hundredfold and party and revolutionary lines became more solid by purging the anti-party and anti-revolutionary faction," Kim said.

After the sudden death of Kim's father in December 2011, Jang acted as regent to his young nephew as Kim established himself in power. With the purge, Kim may have chosen to remove the only man who may have posed any real threat to him.

Kim's call for improved ties with the South followed a threat from Pyongyang last month that it could strike Seoul without notice.

"It is time to end abuse and slander that is only good for doing harm ... We will try hard to improve North-South ties," Kim said, adding that "dark clouds of nuclear war constantly hovered over the Korean peninsula".

"If there ever is once again war on this land, it will bring about an enormous nuclear disaster and the United States will not be spared from it," he said.

The two Koreas remain technically at war under a truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. The United States maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea in joint defense against the North.

Robert Carlin, a contributor to 38 North, a project of John Hopkins University's U.S.-Korea Institute, noted that so far Pyongyang's treatment of South Koran President Park Geun-hye had avoided the relentless personal attacks on her predecessor.

"Many times over the past 30 or 40 years, the two sides have started dialogue by agreeing to stop slander of the other," Carlin said.

"It's a relatively easy and verifiable first step. By raising it, Kim would appear to be signaling that he's prepared to start off with something concrete, if modest, in order to open the door."

CONSTRUCTION PLANS

State media reported on Tuesday that Kim rode on a ski lift at the Masik ski resort, a widely publicized public project where the North expects up to 5,000 skiers a day when it opens this year.

Kim has been pushing for massive projects throughout the country that go beyond the ski resort, pleasure parks and apartment blocks reported by state media, largely with the financial aid of its sole main ally China.

On Wednesday, he emphasized his eagerness to pursue more construction projects.

"This year, we should open up a new period of prosperity in construction. Construction is an important frontline to set grounds for the strong nation and people's happiness," he said.

(Additional reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Jack Kim and John Mair)

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