Six of North Korea’s high ranking officials have ‘disappeared’ in the latest blood-thirsty purge of the regime, it has been reported.
The officials, including the commanding officer of North Korea’s air force, the minister of posts and telecommunications and a key official in the North’s sport programmes, have not been present at a series of important events in recent months.
An intelligence source told South Korea’s respected JoongAng Ilbo newspaper that ‘six minister-level officials were executed’.
If true, it would be the third major purge since the dictator Kim Jong-un assumed power in 2011.
The leader’s health and grip on the nation was recently questioned after he disappeared from local media reports for more than 40 days.
However, Kim has quelled the rumours of ill-health and unrest by being shown on state media visiting military facilities and construction sites.
Now speculation is growing he may have used the time to oversee another brutal purge of the regime.
The officials that have disappeared include General Ri Pyong-chol, who has not been seen in public since late August.
He was absent on October 19, when Kim provided ‘on-the-spot guidance’ to senior officials of the North Korean air force.
Another reported to be missing is Ma Won-chun, a prominent architect and construction official, who was not present when Kim toured construction projects in North Korea recently.
Ri Yong-gil, chief of the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army, was expected to be present at a ceremony to congratulate athletes who returned from this month’s Asian Games in South Korea, but did not attend.
Sim Chol-ho, the posts minster, was reportedly close to Kim Jong-il and failed to attend a meeting with representatives of the Egyptian company that provides North Korea’s mobile phone network.
Another official, Chang Ung, is understood to have had close ties with Mr Kim’s influential uncle Jang Song-thaek.
Mr Song-theaek was arrested in December 2013 and later executed for 24 abuses of power or contraventions of North Korean law, including ‘gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party’ and ‘dreaming different dreams’.
Many of Jang’s closest allies were also purged at the time.
‘He was known as an associate of Jang Song-thaek and in investigation into him revealed that he had embezzled IOC funds and hidden the money in overseas accounts,’ a defector with knowledge of North Korea’s sporting circles told the JoongAng Ilbo.
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