Key officials in North Korea have not been seen in important events in recent weeks, spurring speculation that ruler Kim Jong-un has ordered another “extensive purge” during his 40-day absence in state media coverage, the Independent newspaper reported on Friday.
Kim’s disappearance from public view for more than a month had triggered rumors of illness and even a coup in Pyongyang, but with his return to the spotlight, the latest reports from the secret state indicate that he had supervised another major purge, after executing his uncle and other officials last year, the report said.
“I received reliable intelligence that six minister-level officials were executed,” a “well-informed source” told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily, adding that the officials have not attended important events for several weeks.
The officials include:
- Telecommunications minister Sim Chol-ho.
- Ma Won-chun, a prominent architect and construction official, who was not present when Kim toured construction projects recently.
Ma is director of the National Defense Commission’s Design Department and was appointed to deputy director of the Workers’ Party in May 2012. He was often seen beside Kim during his previous visits to construction projects.
- General Ri Pyong-chol, the air force chief, who has not been seen or mentioned in state media since the end of September, when he was elected to the National Defense Commission at the Supreme People’s Assembly session.
Ri was not around when Kim was seen talking to senior air force officials on Oct. 19.
- Chang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee, has also been absent in state media for several week.
The 76-year-old official was not mentioned in official reports of Kim’s meeting with North Korean athletes returning from the Incheon Asian Games.
- Ri Yong-gil, chief of the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army, did not attend Kim’s meeting with gold medalists, an event that military leaders were expected attend since many of the athletes are also soldiers.
The alleged purge came after Kim announced the removal of “factionalist filth” in December, when he executed his own uncle Jang Song-thaek and other prominent figures in Pyongyang, the newspaper said.
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