Ex-foreign minister of N. Korea purged according to South’s intelligence agency

Posted on : 2023-01-06 17:11 KST Modified on : 2023-01-06 17:11 KST
The National Intelligence Service is also looking into whether a Chinese restaurant that allegedly functioned as a base for the Chinese secret police inside South Korea may have violated the Immigration Act
Kim Kyou-hyun, director of the National Intelligence Service, appears before the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee on Jan. 5. (Yonhap)
Kim Kyou-hyun, director of the National Intelligence Service, appears before the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee on Jan. 5. (Yonhap)

In a report to South Korea’s National Assembly on Thursday, the National Intelligence Service confirmed that former North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has been purged.

“Recent media reports about the purging of former North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho have been confirmed, but his execution has not been confirmed,” said Youn Kun-young, ranking member of the opposition Democratic Party in the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee, in a press briefing following the NIS report on Thursday.

“More specifically, we weren’t briefed on the background or causes of the purge,” added Yoo Sang-bum, the ruling People Power Party’s ranking member on the committee.

Earlier, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper quoted multiple sources who are well-informed about circumstances inside North Korea as saying that Ri Yong-ho was apparently executed last year.

As one of North Korea’s leading experts on the US, Ri was present at the Trump administration’s second summit with North Korea in Hanoi, in February 2019, when talks broke down between the two sides.

The NIS is also examining whether a Chinese restaurant that allegedly functioned as a base for the Chinese secret police inside South Korea may have violated the Immigration Act.

The owner of the Chinese restaurant Dongbang Myeongju — in Chinese, Dongfang Mingzhu, meaning “Oriental Pearl” — who was also running the Overseas Chinese Service Center, is accused of having ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

“The counterespionage authorities are currently looking into whether there was a violation of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic and consular relations and Article 20 of the Immigration Act,” said Yoo Sang-bum.

Article 20 of the Immigration Act stipulates that foreign nationals must receive permission before engaging in activities unrelated to their status of sojourn.

In addition, the NIS concluded that the 140-ton-force solid-fuel engine on which North Korea conducted a static firing test on Dec. 15 was designed for use on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“The exterior of the fuselage would suggest that the engine is capable of achieving 140 tons of force, as North Korea claims, but it’s still uncertain whether that was actually achieved,” Yoo explained.

By Oh Yeon-seo, staff reporter

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