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World & Nation

Top North Korean official reappears days after purge report

Donald Trump, Kim Yong Chol
President Trump with North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in June 2018. A South Korean newspaper reported last week Kim was sent to a labor camp over the failed nuclear summit with Washington. North Korean media on Monday showed him at a concert with leader Kim Jong Un.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

A senior North Korean official who had been reported as purged over the failed nuclear summit with Washington was shown in state media on Monday enjoying a concert alongside leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korean publications on Monday showed Kim Yong Chol sitting near a clapping Kim Jong Un and other top officials during a musical performance by the wives of Korean People’s Army officers.

Kim Yong Chol has been North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator and the counterpart of U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo since the two countries entered nuclear talks early last year. He traveled to Washington and met President Trump twice before Kim Jong Un’s two summits with Trump.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo last week cited an unidentified source to report that Kim Yong Chol had been sentenced to hard labor after the collapse of the second summit in February over what the Americans described as excessive demands by North Korea for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Kim Jong Un since then has said the United States has until the end of the year to come up with mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations.

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Chosun Ilbo 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.

South Korea’s government and media have a mixed record on tracking developments among North Korea’s ruling elite, made difficult by Pyongyang’s stringent control of information. Seoul’s spy service has said it could not confirm the newspaper’s report, while the presidential Blue House declined to comment.


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