Last week, much of the US media, and by much I mean virtually all of it, ran with a story that Kim Jong Un was disturbed by the lack of faith on the part of the team conducting negotiations with the United States at the Hanoi summit between President Trump and Kim.
North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, has engineered a sweeping purge of the country’s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump, a major South Korean daily reported on Friday.
Kim Hyok-chol, the envoy, was executed by firing squad in March at the Mirim airfield in a suburb of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily, reported on Friday, citing an anonymous source. Mr. Kim faced the charge that he was “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader,” the newspaper said.
Four officials of the North Korean Foreign Ministry were also executed, the South Korean daily reported, without providing any hint of who its source might be or how it obtained the information.
South Korean officials could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report. North Korea has not reported any execution or purge of top officials in recent months. The country remains the world’s most isolated, and outside intelligence agencies have sometimes failed to figure out or have misinterpreted what was going on in the closely guarded inner circles of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Now, it appears, that this part, and perhaps all, of this never happened.
A senior North Korean official who had been reported to be sentenced to hard labor over the failed nuclear summit with Washington was shown in state media on Monday enjoying a concert near leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean publications on Monday showed Kim Yong Chol sitting five seats away from a clapping Kim Jong Un in the same row along with other top officials during a musical performance by the wives of Korean People’s Army officers.
Last week, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo cited an unidentified source in reporting that Kim Yong Chol had been sentenced to hard labor and ideological re-education over the failed summit in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. The newspaper also reported that senior envoy Kim Hyok Chol, who was involved in pre-summit working-level talks with American officials, was executed with four other officials from the North’s Foreign Ministry for betraying Kim Jong Un after being won over by the United States.
None of the allegedly executed officials have appeared in state media since the report.
Amid purge reports, Kim Yong Chol reappears alongside North Korean leader https://t.co/SMpn2MNPqU
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) June 2, 2019
This is sort of a cautionary tale about any report purporting to cover North Korea…whether sourced to the South Korean press or to US intelligence. We actually know f***-all about what is going on in North Korea. High level defectors are extraordinarily rare. Often they are provocateurs. The North Koreans are no less adept at maskirova than were the Soviets.
They have a very good idea of what our technical capabilities are and to a great extent we see what they want us to see.
To give you an idea of the level of secrecy the North Koreans are capable of, in the late 1970s the North Koreans conducted a nationwide mobilize-for-war exercise. We found out some six months later via a debriefing of a defector.
Some of the people on the team might be dead. It is always possible the wily spymaster, Kim Yong Chol, extricated himself from a tough spot and everyone else was killed. Given the history of how Kim operates, I don’t think the chances of that are all that great. There were probably demotions and transfers because where the Western press made this out to be some kind of a major disaster for Trump, it was Kim who really suffered a direct hit to his prestige and with the people who matter: the North Korean ruling kleptocracy. But right now, it would seem that we’d be completely justified in filing the purge report with other #FakeNews that has been run by the US media.