Tuesday, June 4, 2019

'Executed' North Korean diplomat is alive, sources say

The North Korean diplomat who South Korea's largest newspaper said had been executed by firing squad is alive and in state custody, according to several sources familiar with the situation, CNN reports.

North Korea's special envoy to the United States, Kim Hyok Chol, is being investigated for his role in the failed Hanoi summit that took place between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February, the sources said.

That meeting, the second between the two leaders, ended abruptly without the two sides reaching a deal.

Kim Jong Un's translator in Hanoi, Sin Hye Yong, also is in custody and under investigation, sources said.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Friday that Kim Yong Chol, one of North Korea's most senior officials who had sat in the White House across from President Trump for talks little more than a year ago, had been purged and that Kim Hyok Chol had been executed by firing squad as punishment for the lack of success in Hanoi.

The story cited an anonymous source inside North Korea, and was not confirmed by the governments of North or South Korea.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country was looking into the reports, while South Korea's Presidential Blue House said it was not appropriate "to make any hasty judgment or comment about that part."

At a news conference Tuesday, South Korea's Unification Minister, Kim Yeon-chul, declined to discuss either Chosun Ilbo or CNN's reporting on the whereabouts of the North Korean officials.

The report's veracity was called into question Sunday after North Korean state media reported that Kim Yong Chol attended an art performance alongside Kim Jong Un. An invitation to join the North Korean leader in public would likely not be extended to someone who had fallen out of favor.

When asked about the Chosun Ilbo report, one of the sources who spoke to CNN said, "the news was wrong."

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