N Korea executes vice premier for ‘disrespect’
SEOUL – North Korea has executed a vice premier for showing disrespect during a meeting presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un, and banished two other officials for re-education, South Korea said yesterday.
Since taking power after his father’s death in late 2011, Kim is believed to have executed or demoted a number of senior figures in what analysts say is an attempt to tighten his grip on power.
“Vice premier for education Kim Yong-Jin was executed,” Seoul’s Unification Ministry spokesperson Jeong Joon-Hee said at a regular briefing.
Kim was killed by a firing squad in July as “an antiparty, anti-revolutionary agitator,” added an official at the ministry, who declined to be named.
“Kim Yong-Jin was denounced for his bad sitting posture when he was sitting below the rostrum” during a session of North Korea’s parliament, and then underwent an interrogation that revealed his other crimes, the official told reporters.
The mass-selling JoongAng Ilbo first reported on Tuesday that top figures had been punished, but identified the education official by a different name.
“He incurred the wrath of Kim after he dozed off during a meeting presided over by Kim. He was arrested on site and intensively questioned by the state security ministry,” it quoted a source as saying.
The unification ministry said two other senior figures were forced to undergo re-education sessions.
One of them was Kim Yong-Chol, a top official in charge of inter-Korean affairs and espionage activities against the South.
The 71-year-old Kim is a career military intelligence official who is believed to be the mastermind behind the North’s frequent cyberattacks against Seoul.
Kim is also blamed by the South for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 near the disputed sea border with the North in the Yellow Sea.
Kim was banished to an agricultural farm in July for a month for his “arrogance” and “abuse of power,” the ministry official said.
Kim Yong-Chol, who was subsequently reinstated this month, is likely to be tempted to prove his loyalty by committing provocative acts against the South, the official said. “Therefore, we are keeping a close tab on the North”, he said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency put the number of party officials executed during Kim Jong-Un’s rule at over 100.
The most notorious case was that of Kim’s uncle and onetime No 2 Jang Song-Thaek, who was executed for charges including treason and corruption in December 2013.
In April 2015, it was reported that Kim had his defence minister Hyon Yong-Chol summarily executed with an anti-aircraft gun.
Reports of the latest execution coincide with a series of high-profile defections from the North.
North Korea’s deputy ambassador to Britain has defected to the South with his family, the unification ministry said earlier this month. — AFP