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Seoul says no certainty over N.K. spy chief's reinstatement

All News 15:31 April 17, 2017

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification ministry said Monday that it is not certain whether Kim Won-hong, a former North Korean spy chief, may have been reinstated after being dismissed early this year over abuse of authority.

The government said in February that Kim, the Minister of State Security, was fired in mid-January following a probe by the ruling party into the spy agency.

But he made his first public appearance since his alleged dismissal on Saturday when the country held a massive parade to mark the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung.

A gaunt-looking Kim wore the badge of a general in an indication that he may have been reinstated. Kim's military rank was demoted to major general due to the dismissal.

"His title or name has yet to be mentioned on North Korea's state media," Lee Duk-haeng, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

He added that it is not certain whether he has reinstated, as Kim was not spotted at other major events related to Kim Il-sung's birthday.

North Korea did not fill the vacancy left by Kim's dismissal at last week's parliamentary meeting. He doubled as a member of the State Affairs Commission, which was created last year.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute, claimed that Kim appears to have been suspended, not sacked.

"Since leader Kim Jong-un assumed power, there have been many cases of demotion, reinstatement and dismissal. But it was hard to find an example of a dismissed official re-assuming a post that he previously held," he said. "In this sense, Kim Won-hong seemed to have seen his duty suspended."

This image, captured from footage of North Korea's state-run TV station on April 15, 2017, shows Kim Won-hong, circled in red, who is known to have been dismissed from the country's office of spy chief early this year. He made his first public appearance since the reported dismissal in mid-January at a military parade held to mark the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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