Published: Tue, June 04, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

North Korean official ‘executed’ over failed summit with US seen enjoying concert

North Korean official ‘executed’ over failed summit with US seen enjoying concert

Many experts in South Korea believe experienced foreign ministry hands such as Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui are likely to take the lead in North Korea's nuclear diplomacy as it prepares for the possibility of protracted and highly complicated negotiations with Washington.

After the show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "called creators of the performance and seriously criticised them for their wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude, pointing to the contents and forms of works", state news agency KCNA said.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper had earlier - mistakenly - reported that Kim Yong-chol had been sent to a labour camp after a second summit between Kim Jong-un and USA president Donald Trump broke up without agreement in Hanoi in February.

The newspaper also reported that Kim Hyok Chol, the counterpart of US envoy Stephen Biegun in pre-summit negotiations, had been executed, although many diplomats and experts expressed caution or outright skepticism about that claim.

Kim Jong Un gave the US until the end of the year to reach a compromise but has sought to ramp up pressure on Washington in the meantime with renewed missile launches and threats in recent months.

What had Kim Yong Un and his entourage applauding so enthusiastically was a musical performance by the wives of military officers, in which they sang about how they "make every moment of their lives honorable with ardent yearning for the leader and boundless loyalty to him".

Both the South Korean media and the government in Seoul have reported on purges in the past - only for the "executed" officials to turn up a few weeks later looking alive and well next to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the BBC noted last week, pointing out that it would be wise to treat the reports of a purge cautiously.

The reported executions and purge, which the newspaper claimed were in response to February's failed U.S.

The Korea Society, a non-profit media platform, tweeted that Kim Yong Chol's presence at the art performance, alongside his leader Kim Jong Un, is "signaling that the former spymaster is alive and remains a force in North Korea's power structure".

In 2018 though, the singer appeared in Seoul leading a visiting North Korean delegation ahead of the Winter Olympics.

If true, it would have been one of the most stunning stories to come out of North Korea in some time.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea's Sejong Institute, said Kim Yong Chol, who is also rumoured to have health problems, wouldn't have appeared in public this quickly if he was undergoing political re-education.

Noting that artists "have a very important duty in socialist cultural construction", Kim "set forth important tasks for correctly implementing the revolutionary policy of our Party on literature and art", KCNA said.

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