If you just saw the headline and clicked in, you’re not surprised at all, aren’t you?
Kim Jong Un even executed his own uncle once and was even highly suspected of assassinating his brother, all for political reasons of his own. I guess he sees it in a way that if it’s for the country, not even your own family members can be spared.
This time around, it was his officials who had to take the fall.
In February, the second Trump-Kim summit took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, where the US wanted the Korean peninsula to be completely denuclearised and North Korea demanded the lift of sanctions led by the US.
Originally, they were supposed to sign a deal where North Korea was to willing to give up nuclear power plant that was at the very centre of their weapons programme, but Kim Jong Un wanted a complete lift of the sanctions against them.
Things didn’t go so well, however, and the summit ended with the two leaders being unable to compromise, so there was no deal.
It was basically a very important discussion for the fate of both countries amongst strained political relations.
But instead of thinking about what went wrong with the requests from both countries, Kim Jong Un decided that placing the blame on his officials was better.
Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the United States and Mr Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man as well as the counterpart of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the Hanoi summit, had been executed, as reported by a South Korean newspaper.
“He was accused of spying for the United States for poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping US intentions,” allegedly said the source.
Apparently, Kim Hyok Chol had been sent to a labour and re-education camp near the Chinese border after the summit as well. He was also reportedly removed from a key party post back in April, which the Seoul Unification Ministry didn’t wish to comment on.
Officials who worked with him suddenly disappeared from public sight as well, and older diplomats who were previously out of the limelight were seen again.
Kim Hyuk Chol’s execution did not come as much of a shock to many, for he was a key figure who reported directly to Kim Jong Un.
“His task was to convey US views accurately to Kim, but I’m not sure if he was capable of grasping their intentions or negotiating strategy,” said Mr Hong Min, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
He was expected to do great things for just weeks before the Hanoi summit, he was appointed to lead working-level talks with Stephen Biegun, the US nuclear envoy.
How unexpected fate is, sometimes.
There’s Four More
If executing Kim Hyuk Chol wasn’t enough, four other ministry foreign executives were also executed along with him at the Mirim Airport in Pyongyang.
They faced charges of spying for the US, Chosun Ilbo reported.
Among the four, some were diplomats working on Vietnam relations. Two of them, Kim Song Hye and Shin Hye Yong, were actually detained in a prison for political offenders.
Kim Song Hye had worked closely with Kim Jong Un’s very own sister Kim Yo Jong, who is said to be lying low under Kim Jong Un’s orders after the Hanoi summit.
Shin Hye Yong, on the other hand, was charged for making critical interpretation mistakes at the Hanoi summit, one of it being that she’d apparently missed out on a last-minute offer that Kim Jong Un made just as Trump was about to walk out of the room.
It wasn’t specified what the offer was so there’s no telling if it could have changed the result of the summit.
Labelled As Traitors
While I don’t know what proof Kim Jong Un had of these people being spies for the US and were traitors to their own government, the North Korean official political news outlet Rodong Sinmun had this to say:
“It is an anti-Party, anti-revolutionary act to pretend to be revering the leader in front of him when you actually dream of something else. There are traitors and turncoats who only memorise words of loyalty toward the Leader and even change according to the trend of the time.”
It’s also noted that it was the first time these words hinting at purging had appeared in Rodong Sinmun since the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in 2013.
It’s one scary place to live in, indeed.
It’s unclear if Trump and Kim Jong Un will be seeing each other face-to-face anytime soon given the tragic ending of this round’s summit, but we’ll be waiting to see the drama unfold.
It doesn’t sound so bad if they come back to Singapore again, for we might just get more special discounts and promotions at restaurants.
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