South Korea’s government says it is monitoring reports that North Korea’s vice-premier Choe Yong-gon was killed in May on orders of Kim Jong-un. Mr Choe was executed after he “expressed discomfort against the young leader’s forestation policy”, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
The BBC has not been able to verify the claims. North Korea rarely confirms the South’s reports of executions.
In April, South Korea’s intelligence agency said Kim Jong-un had ordered the execution of 15 officials in the first four months of the year. Among them was a forestry official who complained about the leader’s forestation plan, the agency said at the time, but it is not clear if this man was Choe Yong-gon.
Choe Yong-gon was formerly deputy minister of construction and building material industries, and had represented North Korea in trade talks in Seoul in the mid-2000s. He was appointed as one of seven vice-premiers in June last year, and his promotion was seen by one analyst as a sign Pyongyang was keen to maintain close ties with the South.