North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had his nuclear envoy to the United States executed along with several other officials who were involved in trying to secure a nuclear deal with the U.S. and ultimately failed, according to reports out of South Korea.
"Kim Hyok Chol was executed in March at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang, along with four foreign ministry executives after they were all charged with spying for the United States, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the situation," Reuters reported Thursday.
The source who spoke with the South Korean newspaper said, "He was accused of spying for the United States for poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping U.S. intentions."
The New York Times reports that the Chosun Ilbo reported that Hyok Chol was accused of being "won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader."
The Times notes that in recent weeks, South Korean analysts have begun "to speculate that Mr. Kim may be engineering a reshuffle or a purge of his negotiating team in the wake of the summit meeting, held in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting was widely seen as a huge embarrassment for Mr. Kim, who is supposedly seen as infallible in his totalitarian state."
"On Thursday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, carried a commentary warning against 'anti-party, anti-revolutionary acts' of officials who 'pretend to work for the supreme leader in his presence but secretly harbor other dreams behind his back," The Times added. "'Such characters won’t escape the stern judgment from the revolution,' the North Korean newspaper said. North Korean state media has issued such warnings when it needed to engineer a political purge or warn against possible lagging loyalty among the elites, South Korean analysts said."
Reuters added that, according to the South Korean newspaper, "Kim Song Hye, who led preparations as part of Kim Yong Chol’s team, and Sin Hye Yong, a newly elevated interpreter for the Hanoi summit," were sent to prison camps as punishment.
Neither Reuters nor The Times was able to independently verify the reports out of South Korea.