Kim Hyok Chol – North Korea’s top nuclear envoy who was reportedly executed is actually alive and in state custody, CNN reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Kim Hyok Chol, who led working-level negotiations for the February summit in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un, is being investigated for his role in the failure to reach a deal, CNN reported Tuesday. A conservative South Korean daily, Chosun Ilbo, sparked global intrigue over the fate of Kim Hyok Chol when it reported Friday he had been executed by firing squad after being charged with espionage as part of an internal purge.
A career diplomat from an elite North Korean family, Kim Hyok Chol made his international debut a few weeks before the Hanoi summit as Pyongyang’s new point man for nuclear negotiations, taking diplomats by surprise. As to his personal “failure” in the summit, South Korea’s former top envoy to international nuclear talks with North Korea commented, “I cannot imagine that Kim Hyok Chol misinterpreted the U.S. position and misled his bosses into believing that sanctions relief is possible. He is not senior enough to make such a judgment.”
Kim Yong Chol – Recently, another key player Kim Yong Chol appeared in public attending an art performance alongside Kim Jong Un. An invitation to join to join the North Korean leader in public would likely not be extended to someone who had fallen out of favor. However, sources said Kim Yong Chol had seen power “almost deprived” since the Hanoi summit. The sources add Kim, who previously served as North Korea’s spy chief, was not sentenced to forced labor, but instead “kept silently in his office writing statements of self-criticism.” Trotting him out publicly was a signal to Washington that Kim Jong Un was “not breaking off negotiations over denuclearization,” despite escalating tensions in recent weeks, one source said.
Sin Hye Yong – Kim Jong Un’s translator at the failed Hanoi talks, Sin Hye Yong, also is in custody and under investigation, sources said.
The above North Korean officials join other senior North Korean officials who South Korean media over the years has reported they had been executed, only to have proven false.
Diplomats and officials from Pyongyang have been known to disappear from public view only to resurface after a period of so-called reeducation, analysts and former diplomats say.
[CNN / Bloomberg]