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N. Korea reportedly purged senior intelligence official

All Headlines 15:47 May 20, 2011

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to have purged a senior intelligence official, South Korean officials said Friday, in what could be a case of infighting amid its power succession process.

The alleged purge of Ryu Kyong, a deputy head of North Korea's state security agency and a key aide to leader Kim Jong-il, seems highly credible, an official said.

Another official said Ryu will not keep his job. The two officials did not give any further details and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

A local newspaper reported Ryu was arrested by Kim's security guards and secretly executed earlier this year, citing an unidentified source in North Korea.

The news of the purge comes as Kim Jong-un, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's heir apparent son, arrived in China in a trip apparently aimed at winning formal support for the power succession from the key ally.

The trip marks the younger Kim's first visit to China since he was named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Worker's Party and a four-star general last September.

It is not unusual for the communist country to execute senior officials.

Last year, the North reportedly executed Pak Nam-gi, former chief of the planning and finance department of the ruling Workers' Party, over Pyongyang's botched currency reform in 2009 that caused massive inflation and worsened food shortages.

North Korea also executed a former cabinet minister in charge of railways over the deadly explosion of a train station near the border with China in 2004.

In the 1990s, North Korea executed a top agricultural official over a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.

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