SEOUL — North Korea has executed a vice-premier and banished two other top officials to rural areas for re-education, South Korean officials said Wednesday.
If confirmed, they would be the latest in a series of killings, purges and dismissals carried out since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011.
North Korea is a closed, authoritarian country with a state-controlled press that often makes it difficult for outsiders, and even North Korean citizens, to know what’s happening in the government.
Rival South Korea, which runs several intelligence organizations mainly tasked with spying on North Korea, has a mixed record on reporting developments across the border. In May, a former North Korean military chief, who Seoul said had been executed, was found to be alive and holding several new senior-level posts.
Jeong Joon Hee, a spokesman for Seoul’s Unification Ministry, told reporters Wednesday that Kim Yong Jin, a vice-premier on education affairs in North Korea’s cabinet, had been executed. Jeong gave no further details, including why and when his ministry believes he was executed and how it obtained the information.