North Korea purges vice foreign minister for defection of deputy ambassador to Britain

The report said four other high-ranking diplomats in charge of European affairs were also expelled from Pyongyang.

By: AFP | Seoul | Updated: October 12, 2016 1:14 pm
FILE - In this May 9, 2016 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un listens during the party congress in Pyongyang, North Korea. Since North Korea’s latest nuclear test, Pyongyang and Seoul have been openly trading threats of decapitation strikes and annihilating capitals populated by millions of civilians. And the talk of how each side might throw that first pre-emptive punch has become more detailed than ever. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un listens during the party congress in Pyongyang, North Korea.  (AP Photo)

North Korea has purged its vice foreign minister as punishment for the recent defection of the nuclear-armed country’s deputy ambassador to Britain, South Korean media reported Wednesday. The mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo, quoting an anonymous source familiar with North Korean affairs, said that Kung Sok-Ung had been removed from his post and expelled from Pyongyang to a rural farming area with his family.

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It said the purge was ordered by supreme leader Kim Jong-Un following the defection of the North’s deputy ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong-Ho, and his family to the South two months ago.

“Since Thae Yong-Ho’s defection in late July, there has been an overall inspection throughout the foreign ministry,” the source said.

“Kung Sok-Ung was held accountable for the embassies in Europe and purged as a result.”

The report said four other high-ranking diplomats in charge of European affairs were also expelled from Pyongyang. The 72-year-old Kung is a veteran diplomat who had been looking after North Korea’s diplomacy with Russia and Europe for nearly two decades. Since taking power in 2011, Kim has ordered numerous executions and purges of high-ranking officials to solidify his grip on power.

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In August, South Korea’s unification ministry confirmed that the North executed a vice premier for education for showing disrespect to the leader during a meeting. The most notorious case was that of Kim’s uncle and one-time number two, Jang Song-Thaek, who was executed for charges including treason and corruption in December 2013. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has put the number of party officials executed during Kim’s rule at over 100.

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