South Korea: North Korea executes vice premier in latest purge

North Korea has executed its vice premier for education and rebuked two high-ranking officials, South Korea said on Wednesday, which, if true, would mark a new series of measures by leader Kim Jong Un to discipline top aides.

Kim took power in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, and his consolidation of power has included purges and executions of top officials.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said the government had confirmed the execution of the education official, Kim Yong Jin, “through various channels” but declined to provide details. The execution, by firing squad, apparently took place in July.

Additionally, Kim Yong Chol, the influential head of the North’s United Front Department which handles inter-Korean relations, was made to undergo “revolutionary measures,” Jeong told a briefing. Kim Yong Chol was re-educated at a rural farm for a month until mid-August, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said. Kim Yong Chol, an Army general, headed the North Korean intelligence agency before taking his current position this year.

Another ruling party official in the propaganda department was also reprimanded, Jeong said.

The South’s comments follow a news report on Tuesday that the North had executed two high-ranking officials for disobeying leader Kim Jong Un.

It is difficult to independently verify news about top officials in the North or the inner circle around the leader. Some previous reports of executions and purges in the reclusive state have proven inaccurate.

North Korea rarely announces purges or executions, although state media confirmed the 2012 execution of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, widely considered the country’s second most powerful man, for factionalism and crimes damaging to the economy.

[Reuters]

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