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(LEAD) N. Korean leader watches art performance with Kim Yong-chol amid rumor of purge

All Headlines 06:59 June 03, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; MODIFIES headline)

SEOUL, June 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has watched a show, along with his top aide, Kim Yong-chol, that was staged by the wives of some military officers, Pyongyang's state news agency reported Monday.

The report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) came amid a rumor that Kim Yong-chol might have been purged after the failed Hanoi summit between North Korea and the United States.

The leader attended the performance "given by amateur art groups of the wives of officers of units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) selected in the seventh round of the second-term contest of art groups of KPA officers' wives," the KCNA said.

He appeared with his wife, Ri Sol-ju. Among the audience were Kim Yong-chol, a senior official at the Workers' Party of Korea, and several other top officials, it added.

Speculation has been rampant that Kim is carrying out a massive purge of his aides involved in preparations for his second meeting with President Donald Trump held in late February.

They cut short the two-day talks without producing any accord.

Last week, the Chosun Ilbo, a major daily in Seoul, reported that North Korea had executed Kim Hyok-chol, its special envoy for the U.S., and some foreign ministry officials. It cited an unnamed source.

It added Kim Yong-chol is going through hard labor in a remote province.

South Korea's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, soon said it's premature to conclude that such a purge is actually under way.

"There's nothing we can confirm (for you)," Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung told reporters Friday. "We are monitoring all related situations (on North Korea). But I think it's important to figure out how much information in the article has been confirmed."

lcd@yna.co.kr
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