Kim Jong-un executes top negotiator, punishes others, over collapse of talks with Trump

Seoul: North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States as well as foreign ministry officials who carried out working-level negotiations for the second summit with Donald Trump in February, holding them responsible for its collapse, South Korean reports say.

The special envoy Kim Hyok-chol has reportedly been executed, and Kim Yong-chol, a senior official who had been US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's counterpart in the run-up to the Hanoi summit,  has been subjected to forced labour and ideological education, newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends a wreath laying ceremony in Hanoi in march.Credit:AP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to be carrying out a massive purge to divert attention from internal turmoil and discontent, the newspaper said.

"Kim Hyok-chol was investigated and executed at Mirim Airport with four foreign ministry officials in March," an unnamed North Korea source said, according to the Chosun Ilbo, adding that they were charged with spying for the United States.

Kim Hyok-chol had been negotiations counterpart to US special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun before the summit.

Kim Yong-chol was forced to work in Jagang Province after his dismissal, the source said, adding that Kim Song-hye, who carried out working-level negotiations with Kim Hyok-chol, was sent to a political prison camp.

Shin Hye-yong, the interpreter for Kim Jong-un at the Hanoi meeting, is also said to have been detained in a political prison camp for undermining the authority of Kim Jong-un by making a critical mistake in interpretation, Chosun reported.

Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un's sister who aided him in Hanoi, is also said to be lying low, the paper reported, citing an unnamed South Korean government official who said, "We are not aware of Kim Yo-jong's track record since the Hanoi meeting … We understand that Kim Jong-un has made her lie low."

North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary that, "Acting like one is revering the Leader in front (of others) but dreaming of something else when one turns around, is an anti-Party, anti-revolutionary act that has thrown away the moral fidelity toward the Leader, and such people will not avoid the stern judgment of the revolution."

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un, is laying low.Credit:Felipe Dana

"There are traitors and turncoats who only memorise words of loyalty toward the Leader and even change according to the trend of the time," the commentary said.

It is the first time since the December 2013 execution of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un's uncle, that expressions hinting at purging such as "anti-party, anti-revolutionary" and "stern judgment" appeared in Rodong Sinmun, according to the South Korean newspaper.

An official at South Korea's Unification Ministry declined comment.


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