Kim Yong-chol: ‘Purged’ N Korean diplomat appears with Kim

A North Korean official who was reported to be in a labour camp has appeared at a concert alongside Kim Jong-un, according to state media.

Last Friday, Kim Yong-chol was widely reported to have been sent to a re-education camp as punishment.

But on Sunday, North Korean media showed him apparently at a musical performance with other officials.

Kim Yong-chol, a former spymaster, has been described as the North Korean leader’s right-hand man.

He travelled to the US in January to prepare for the second summit meeting between Mr Kim and President Trump, which was held in Vietnam.

Kim Yong-chol’s reported attendance at Sunday’s concert does not guarantee that he was never sent to a labour camp.

Reports of purges or the executions of high-ranking North Koreans who have fallen from favour are difficult to verify, and often prove inaccurate.

The reports on Friday – which began with an anonymous source quoted in a South Korean newspaper – also said that Kim Hyok-chol, a former North Korean envoy to the US, had been executed at an airport in Pyongyang.

He was another key figure in talks ahead of the US-North Korea summit held in February.

Kim Hyok-chol was not among the attendees listed for Sunday’s event, but state media have not yet reported any execution or punishment so his whereabouts remain unclear.

South Korean media and the government in Seoul have alleged purges in the past, but in several cases the individuals have later turned up alive and still alongside Kim Jong-un.

Donald Trump stands with Kim Yong-chol

A prominent example of a North Korean falsely presumed executed is singer Hyon Song-wol, who in 2013 was alleged to have been shot in a “hail of machine gun fire while members of her orchestra looked on”.

In 2018 though, the singer appeared in Seoul leading a visiting North Korean delegation ahead of the Winter Olympics.

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