The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has executed his deputy premier for education and purged two other senior officials, sending them to re-education camps, the South Korean government said on Wednesday.

Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry, said at a news briefing that the South Korean government had used various means to confirm the execution of Kim Yong-jin, the deputy premier, and the purge of Kim Yong-chol, the head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party, which handles relations with, as well as spying operations against, South Korea. Choe Hui, a deputy chief of the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, was also banished for re-education, Mr. Jeong said.

Mr. Jeong provided no further details, including when the reported punishments were believed to have taken place or how South Korea had learned of them. But in a later briefing, a senior Unification Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said that Kim Jong-un had found fault with the 63-year-old deputy premier’s “disrespectful posture” during a meeting that Mr. Kim oversaw in late June.

A subsequent investigation found the deputy premier to be an “anti-party reactionary” guilty of “modern-day factionalism,” and he was executed by firing squad in July, the official said.

Kim Yong-jin would be the highest-ranking official known to have been executed since 2013, when North Korea confirmed in a rare announcement that Kim Jong-un had executed his own uncle and No. 2 official, Jang Song-thaek, on charges of factionalism, corruption and plotting to overthrow his government.

The ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Kim Yong-chol, the leader of the United Front Department, had spent a month at a re-education camp on suspicion of abuse of power and that he had been released in mid-August.

Kim Yong-chol is seen as a hard-liner by South Korean officials. He was accused of helping orchestrate recent armed provocations by the North along the inter-Korean border, including an artillery barrage carried out against a South Korean island in 2010, when he was the army’s intelligence chief. The Unification Ministry official said Mr. Kim would now need to prove his loyalty, which the official said raised the possibility that the North could take more aggressive actions toward South Korea.

Since taking power in 2011, Kim Jong-un has frequently reshuffled the party and military elites as he has consolidated his authority in North Korea, which his family has ruled for seven decades. Mr. Kim has also executed dozens of top officials in what President Park Geun-hye of South Korea has called a “reign of terror,” according to South Korean intelligence officials.

It remains difficult to independently verify reports of executions and purgesin the secretive North. North Korea rarely announces them.

Source:New York TIMES

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