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(LEAD) S. Korea wary of North over alleged defense chief purge

All Headlines 14:13 May 14, 2015

(ATTN: ADDS more details in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Thursday it will closely monitor the political situation in North Korea following reports that its defense chief was purged.

North Korea executed Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol in late April over his disloyalty and disrespect to the North's leader Kim Jong-un, South Korea's spy agency said Wednesday, in the latest sign of Kim's reign of terror.

If confirmed, it would mark another high-profile public execution by the North. In late 2013 Kim ordered the execution of his once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek.

The Ministry of Unification said that it will keep close tabs on the situation to gauge the alleged execution's implication on inter-Korean ties.

"For now, it is hard to predict its effect. But Seoul will closely monitor the related situation and manage the inter-Korean relations in a stable manner," said a ministry official, asking not to be named.

There is still controversy over the authenticity of the spy agency's analysis as Hyon has appeared in TV footage even after his alleged death. Usually, North Korea removes records and appearances of purged officials from its newspapers and TV footage.

The ministry official, however, said that there were some cases in which purged North Korean officials had appeared in footage in the past.

"There needs to be more analysis on why Hyon is still appearing in the TV footage," the official said.

Seoul also called on Pyongyang to end its threatening rhetoric and military provocations against the South.

North Korea held a firing drill Wednesday near the tensely guarded western sea border with South Korea in the latest of a series of tension-escalating military maneuvers.

"The North should end its condemnation of the South and threatening rhetoric, which are not helpful for inter-Korean relations," the official said.

He said that there is no change in Seoul's stance over inter-Korean dialogue, adding that the South will spur civilian exchanges to build trust.


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