North Korea’s special envoy to the US, who was credited with paving the way for nuclear talks with Washington, has reportedly been executed over the failure of the recent summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.
The South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper cited unnamed sources as saying that Kim Hyok-chol and foreign ministry officials who conducted working-level preparations for February’s doomed Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi were executed in March.
Kim Yong-chol, a senior official who had been US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s counterpart in the run-up to the summit, is said to have been subjected to forced labour and 'ideological education', the newspaper added.
The South Korean government has not commented on the newspaper’s claims, while Pyongyang has challenged previous media claims about executions.
The Chosun Ilbo claimed, however, that Kim had launched another purge of senior officials in an attempt to divert attention from internal turmoil and discontent.
“Kim Hyok-chol was investigated and executed at Mirim airport along with four foreign ministry officials in March,” an unnamed North Korea source said.
Kim Hyok-chol had been the counterpart to Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, before the summit.