'North Korean education official executed' in latest purge

SEOUL • North Korea has executed its vice-premier for education as well as rebuked two high-ranking officials, South Korea said yesterday. If true, the moves would mark a new series of measures by leader Kim Jong Un to discipline top aides.

Mr Kim took power in 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong Il, and his consolidation of power has included purges and executions of top officials, Seoul officials said.

South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon Hee said the government had confirmed the execution of education official Kim Yong Jin, "through various channels", but declined to give details.

Also, Mr Kim Yong Chol, the influential head of the North's United Front Department which handles inter-Korean relations, has allegedly been punished for his overbearing demeanour and made to undergo "revolutionary measures", Mr Jeong told a press briefing. No details are known.

Another ruling party official in the propaganda department was reprimanded too, Mr Jeong said.

It is difficult to independently verify news about top officials in the North or the inner circle around the leader. Some previous reports of executions and purges in the reclusive state have proven inaccurate.

"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 other "crimes", said a South Korean Unification Ministry official, who declined to be named.

The mass-selling JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday quoted a source as saying of Mr Kim Yong Jin: "He incurred the wrath of Kim (Jong Un) after he dozed off during a meeting presided over by Kim.

"He was arrested on site and intensively questioned by the state security ministry."

He was executed by firing squad in July while Mr Kim Yong Chol was re-educated at a rural farm for a month until mid-August, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said.

North Korea rarely announces purges or executions, although state media confirmed the 2012 execution of Mr Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, widely considered the country's second most powerful man, for factionalism and crimes damaging to the economy.

It is also believed that former defence minister Hyun Yong Chol was executed last year for treason, according to the South's spy agency.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2016, with the headline ''North Korean education official executed' in latest purge'. Print Edition | Subscribe