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(2nd LD) N. Korea executed vice premier in July: Seoul official

All Headlines 12:05 August 31, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has carried out the execution of a vice premier, a Seoul government official said Wednesday, as the North's leader moves to further strengthen his reign of terror.

The official said North Korea executed the 63-year-old Kim Yong-jin by firing squad last month after he was accused of showing a bad attitude when attending a key parliamentary meeting held in late June.

He said that Kim was shot after being branded as an anti-revolutionary element.

The official said the North sent Kim Yong-chol, 71, the head of the United Front Department (UFD), to a rural farm for one month of re-education in mid-July as he showed a "heavy-handed" attitude and was blamed for abusing his power.

"As Kim is expected to further show his loyalty (to the North's leader Kim Jong-un) after (re-education), the government is keeping close tabs on the possibility that North Korea would show a more hard-line attitude toward South Korea," the official said.

Kim, already known as a hard-liner, is leading the ruling party's department which handles inter-Korean affairs following the death of his predecessor Kim Yang-gon in December 2015. He is believed to have returned to his jobs following the punishment.

The official, who led the country's reconnaissance bureau, is thought to be behind the sinking of a South Korean warship and shelling of a frontline island in 2010.

The 62-year-old Choe Hwi, a vice department director of the ruling party's central committee, has also been undergoing re-education in a rural area since late May over his mishandling of the party's work on agitation and promotion, the official added.

Since taking office in late 2011, North Korea's leader has executed more than 100 government and military officials, including his once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek, as he seeks to consolidate his oppressive rule, according to a Seoul think tank.

In December 2013, North Korea conducted the high-profile execution of Jang, citing charges of treason.

In April last year, the country killed then defense chief Hyon Yong-chol with an anti-aircraft gun because he dozed off during a military event, according to Seoul's spy agency.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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