South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, has reported that five North Korean officials were executed in March for their roles in the failed Trump/Kim summit.
According to Bloomberg (citing Chosun Ilbo), Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the U.S., and the four other North Korean Foreign Ministry officials faced death by firing squad as part of an “internal purge.”
The newspaper reported that Kim Hyok Chol had been “charged with espionage after allegedly being co-opted by the U.S.” The article said he had been “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader.”
A spokesperson for South Korea’s Presidential Blue House refused to confirm this story telling reporters “We think that hasty judgement or commenting on this situation is not appropriate.” Apparently, this is not the first time reports of this nature have circulated.
The Chosun Ilbo story said that Kim Jong Un’s top aide Kim Yong Chol, “who was also involved in the summit, is reportedly undergoing hard labor.” He had been said to be Kim’s “most trusted policy advisor. He was North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart since Kim entered nuclear talks with the U.S. early last year.”
Bloomberg spoke to Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in South Korea, who studies North Korea. He said he was “skeptical that the Chosun report was credible. This type of political execution would be seen domestically as an attempt by the North Korean leader to shift blame for a summit that was well-publicized within the secretive state.”
He added, “It would mean that Kim Jong Un’s admitting to his own failure and that could damage Kim’s authority on his own leadership, a risk that he is highly unlikely to take.”
Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Seoul, also weighed in. She said, “Kim Jong Un may have gone into the summit with a faulty assessment from his team of Washington’s position and got caught flat-footed without a “Plan B” after Trump rejected North Korea’s disarmament offer. If the Chosun report is true, it may mean more delays for the sputtering nuclear talks…Perhaps this explains why Pyongyang has been ghosting Washington and Seoul since Hanoi because it might have needed to clean house and regroup before negotiating again.”
According to Bloomberg, an editorial which appeared in North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Thursday, used “language similar to previous opinion pieces that have coincided with executions.” It said, “Those that pretend to serve the leader to his face and having different goals and dreaming different dreams behind his back, those that have thrown away their loyalty and ethics, those who are anti-party, anti-revolution, cannot escape a heavy judgement.”
Business as usual in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.