A vice minister of North Korea’s foreign ministry, Kung Sok Ung, was recently removed from his position and banished to a collective farm in a rural area, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported on Wednesday.
The paper said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reprimanded the 72-year-old Kung for issues including the defection of high-profile North Korean diplomat Thae Yong Ho, ordering his departure from the capital city as a result.
“After Minister Thae Yong Ho defected last July, there had been a thorough censorship of the ministry of foreign affairs” the JoonAng reported, quoting an unnamed source as saying.
Thae, who held a Minister level position in London under Ambassador Hyon Hak Bong, fled to the South in August, the Ministry of Unification (MoU) said, following a news story emerging first in the JoongAng.
“Kung Sok Ung, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, was (consequently) purged, as he shouldered the responsibility for mismanaging the diplomatic offices located in Europe,” the source added.
The MoU wasn’t unavailable to immediately comment on the claim, with MoU spokesperson Jeong Joon-hee telling reporters during a regular briefing that the story was being investigated.
Kung last appeared in state media on August 24, having attended a reception to mark the 15th anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il’s visit to Russia, archives of the North’s state-run media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) showed on Wednesday.
An expert based in Seoul said that Kung may not be permanently expelled from the capital.
“If he (Kung) was sent to a collective farm in the rural area, we have to understand it as a ‘revolutionary measures (ideological education)’ to censure him for misconduct,” Cheong Seong-chang, senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute told NK News. “This is not a purge.”
“There is a possibility that he (Kim Jong Un) will reinstate Kung to the position after Kung goes through all kinds of hardship for several years due to his responsibility for Thae’s asylum,” Cheong added.
In August, the South’s MoU said the North purged a vice-premier responsible for education and was in the process of re-educating two other high profile officials. Kim Yong Chol, a director of the United Front Department in charge of North-South relations, resumed his office after undergoing a one-month ideological education at the farm.
A North Korean official who earned hard currency reportedly left his post in Vladivostok with a large amount of money around the same time. The incident also spurred the purge of Kung, JoongAng said based on its source.
South Korean media and government agencies have a spotty record when it comes to reporting on purges and executions of North Korean officials.
Main picture: NK News / Eric Lafforgue
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 450 words of this article.