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article imageClaim that North Korean envoy was executed has little evidence

By Ken Hanly     Jun 2, 2019 in World
South Korean daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Friday that North Korean senior envoy Kim Hyok Choi was executed at the Mirim airfield, together with four other officials from the Foreign Ministry for being won over by the US betraying Kim Jong Un.
South Korean reports have been mistaken before
The report in Chosun Ilbo, a conservative daily newspaper, could be true. North Korea has previously executed people when things go wrong, as they did in the Hanoi February summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un. So far though North Korea has made no official announcement about the alleged executions.
The evidence for the report is weak. The report is based upon one single anonymous source who is said to know about North Korea. There are no details as to where the source obtained the information. The report has so far not been matched by any other major medium in South Korea or by government officials, even anonymously.
Choi led working-level negotiations as North Korea's special representative for US affairs ahead of the Hanoi summit between the two leaders. The report has also claimed that Kim Yong Choi, who had worked as North Korea's top nuclear negotiator and had met with Trump at the White House, was sentenced to hard labor and ideological re-education.
In 2016 South Korean intelligence officials claimed that Kim Jong Un had executed RI Yong Gil a former military chief for corruption and other charges. Later, North Korean media showed that Gil was not only alive but had several new senior posts.
Back in 2013, Chosun Ilbo reported that Hyon Song Wol, a famous North Korean artist and allegedly Kim's ex-girlfriend, was executed in public along with several other performers, based on accusations that they had filmed themselves having sex and had sold the videos. Hyon was the leader of Kim's hand-picked all female Morabong band. She was very much alive and later became a key member of Kim's government, and accompanied him when he met Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Western media snaps up report
While some reports do note that there is much to be skeptical about, others emphasize the supposed killing of the envoy often having as a headline the execution. The New York Times is a good example in its lead paragraph: "North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, has engineered a sweeping purge of the country’s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump, a major South Korean daily reported on Friday." Only in the third paragraph doest he article state that there is no indication who the source might be or how they got their information.
Reuters also emphasizes the execution in its headline and opening paragraph: "Kim Hyok Chol was executed in March at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang, along with four foreign ministry officials after they were charged with spying for the United States, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the situation. 'He was accused of spying for the United States for poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping U.S. intentions,' the source was quoted as saying."
Other comments on the report
South Korea's spy service said that it could not confirm the newspaper report and the government said that it was inappropriate to make hasty judgments or comments. Even US Secretary of Stat Mike Pompeo was guarded saying only that the US was doings it best to check out the report.
More about North korea, Execution of NK envoy, Chosun Ilbo
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