Last year Kim Jong Un executed his uncle and other officials. And now the JoongAng Daily reports that a number of key officials within Kim’s cabinet have not attended important events for several weeks, and rumors abound that these six minister-level officials may have been executed.
Sim Chol-ho, the telecommunication minister, is among the six officials currently missing from public view.
Also not seen for some time is Ma Won-chun, a prominent architect and construction official, who is director of the National Defense Commission Design Department and was appointed to deputy director of the Workers’ Party in May 2012.
General Ri Pyong-chol, the commanding officer of North Korea’s air force, has not been seen at any public events since the end of September when he was elected to the National Defense Commission at the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Rumor is also growing that sports official Chang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee, has been purged due to his prolonged absence in state media over the past few weeks.
Ri Yong-gil, chief of the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army, did not attend a meeting with gold medalists, an event where military leaders are expected to be present as many athletes are also soldiers.
Aidan Foster-Carter, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University, said JoongAng Ilbo is a reputable daily paper, making reports of a purge more credible. He added: “At this stage I am reluctant to go further. Two months is not long to be absent – remember Kim Jong-un disappeared himself recently. North Korea elites do go in and out of the limelight.”
The alleged purge follows what Kim described as the removal of “Factionalist filth” in December when he executed his own uncle Jang Song Thaek and other prominent figures in the capital Pyongyang.