Fake news? ‘Executed’ North Korean seems to resurface alive, another shows up at concert
A report that several North Korean officials were executed over February's failed summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump had spread like wildfire in Western media – but at least one seems to have turned up alive.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported last week that nuclear envoy Kim Hyok-chol had been executed and former spy chief Kim Yong-chol sent to a labor camp, because Trump had walked out of peace talks in Hanoi and rejected North Korean requests for limited sanctions relief.Also on rt.com US to investigate reports N. Korea executed senior diplomat after Hanoi summit failure – Pompeo
The report spread far and wide, shared as proof that Trump’s diplomacy with Kim had failed. With Pyongyang tight-lipped as usual, the fate of the officials remained shrouded in mystery and the subject of breathless speculation.
High-level North Korean defectors say multiple diplomats were executed in March, while other senior officials have been demoted or purged https://t.co/pe6HkIAo2w— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 31, 2019
Holy crap. North Korean envoy Kim Hyok Chol was reportedly executed over the failed summit between Kim Jong Un & Trump. Four other NK foreign ministry officials were reportedly executed, too, and a top aide for Kim Jong Un was punished with hard labor. https://t.co/4r8Xfu1RSf— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) May 30, 2019
South Korean paper reports Kim Jong Un has executed top envoy in wake of Hanoi summit collapse. If true, another stark reminder of brutality of the North Korean leader Trump has sided with over Biden, US intel agencies, Bolton, Shinzo Abe and Warmbier. https://t.co/ImcDC20khL— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) May 30, 2019
On Tuesday, however, CNN reported that Kim Hyok-chol is in fact alive. Reporter Will Ripley cited anonymous sources to say that the official remains in custody and under investigation for his role in the failed summit, and could still face “heavy punishment.”
#breaking CNN EXCLUSIVE: Sources: ‘Executed’ North Korean special envoy to the US, Kim Hyok Chol, is still alive and remains in custody and under investigation for his role in the failed Hanoi summit, several sources familiar with the situation tell me.— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) June 4, 2019
Another negotiator, Kim Song-hye, and translator Sin Hye-yong are also in custody, Ripley’s sources said.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday that Kim Yong-chol had attended a concert the day before, with a photo of the official appearing to be seated in the same row as Kim Jong-un. Ripley’s source, meanwhile, said the former spy chief was being “kept silently in his office writing statements of self-criticism.”
The sources add North Korea’s ex-spy chief and lead nuclear negotiator was not sentenced to forced labor, but instead “kept silently in his office writing statements of self-criticism.”— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) June 4, 2019
With conflicting information coming from multiple anonymous sources, it is impossible to verify any of these claims, and CNN’s reporting may turn out to be as fake as Chosun Ilbo’s.
Both South Korean and Western media outlets have claimed for years that Kim has been executing former officials, dissidents and even family members in a variety of ways, including the use of an anti-aircraft cannon – the North’s reclusive nature meaning any grotesque speculation becomes conveniently-unverifiable headline fodder.
Meanwhile, officials believed dead have been known to surface years later. Kim Yong-ju, the current supreme leader’s great-uncle, abruptly disappeared in the mid-1970s and was rumored to have been executed, until he resurfaced in 1993 and was handed a ceremonial role in the parliament in 1998.
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