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Top North Korean official who was reportedly sent to a prison camp over failed nuclear talks has reappeared alongside Kim Jong Un

Rosie Perper , Business Insider US
 Jun 03, 2019, 04:37 PM
DPRK Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee Kim Yong Chol describes his first visit to New York City to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prior to a working dinner, New York City, May 30, 2018.
State Department
  • A senior North Korean official who was reportedly sentenced to hard labour after the breakdown of nuclear talks with the US has reappeared alongside North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported Sunday.
  • Unnamed sources told South Korean news organization, Chosun Ilbo, that Kim Yong Chol, a prominent member of Kim Jong Un's entourage at the US-North Korea summits, was sentenced to hard labor after the most recent talks ended abruptly without a deal in February.
  • But on Sunday,North Korean state media provided assurances that Kim was still alive, and listed his name alongside other top North Korean officials as having attended a musical performance.
  • While Kim Jong Un is known for his brutal suppression of dissent, reports of purges and executions within North Korea have been sometimes misleading and often debunked.
  • For more stories, go Businessinsider.co.za.

A senior North Korean official who was reportedly sentenced to hard labour after the breakdown of talks with the US has reappeared alongside North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported Sunday.

Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of North Korea's ruling party's Central Committee and prominent member of Kim Jong Un's entourage during the two US-North Korea summits, was sentenced to hard labour and ideological "re-education" last week, unnamed sources told South Korean news organisation Chosun Ilbo.

According to the report, Kim was punished for "betraying the supreme leader" after talks with President Donald Trump ended abruptly without a deal in February. Four others, including an interpreter who is said to have made a translation error at the Hanoi summit, were reportedly imprisoned as part of a wider purge of top-level officials.

Rumours of the purge even made their way to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Friday said the US was investigating the claims.

North Korean state media provided assurances that Kim was still alive, and listed his name alongside other top North Korean officials as having attended a state-sanctioned musical performance on Sunday. Kim Jong Un was also in attendance together with his wife Ri Sol Ju.

According to analysts at NK News and its sister publication NK Pro, the placement of Kim's name next to the names of other officials suggests that his senior status within North Korea's ruling elite has not changed.

"This seems to suggest that Kim Yong Chol likely retains his other major party title of 'party Central Committee vice chairman' and his State Affairs Commission member title," analyst Minyoung Lee told NK News.

But according to the BBC, his reappearance does not necessarily mean he was never sent to a labor camp.

While Kim Jong Un is known for his brutal suppression of dissent, reports of purges and executions within North Korea have been sometimes misleading and often debunked.

In 2013, reports surfaced that a well-known North Korean pop singer, Hyon Song Wol, was executed by firing squad after allegations that she made pornographic videos. The singer later appeared in 2018 at the Winter Olympics and led the North Korean delegation.

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