Everybody who criticized the American press for blindly reporting unverified rumors that North Korea had executed and purged several senior NK officials over the botched Hanoi summit has now been vindicated.
I need to know why we trust people this gullible to deliver our news. pic.twitter.com/vHMs01iN83
— Ian Goodrum (@isgoodrum) May 31, 2019
Reuters reports that former top North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Yong Chol was seen accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to an art performance on Sunday – proving that the former North Korean spymaster is alive and well, and that rumors that he had been purged and sent to a labor camp were greatly exaggerated.
The fact that Kim is clearly still in good standing with the dear leader, meaning that he has probably retained his status in the North Korean power structure in a country where being purged from the ruling party often precedes execution, suggests that other senior officials, including Kim Hyok Chol, the special envoy to the US, who had reportedly been executed could still be alive.
Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party Committee Kim Yong Chol
North Korean state news agency KCNA named Kim as the tenth person in a group of 12 “leading dignitaries” who joined Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, at the performance by wives of North Korean Army officers.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo had reported that Kim, described as a ‘counterpart’ to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, had been sent to a labor camp, while other sources reported that he had been executed.
Asked to comment on the rumors over the weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined, saying “we conduct our negotiations in private,” though he did say early last month that “it appeared his future counterpart might be somebody else” following reports of a “shakeup.”
As one analyst explained to Reuters, it can be “very difficult” to verify changes in the North Korean leadership structure.
“It’s very difficult to factually verify North Korean top leadership purges or removals,” said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.
“It takes a long time because you need to check that they continually don’t appear in public, who took their position, who replaced who.”
Though this isn’t the first time rumors about a purported purge turned out to be untrue, all signs indicate that Kim Jong Un’s uncle-by-marriage Jang Song-thaek, who was reportedly executed after being blown to pieces by an anti-aircraft gun back in 2013, is still extremely dead.