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North Korean Official Reappears On State Media After Reports Of Imprisonment

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Matt M. Miller Contributor

A senior North Korean official was shown sitting near Kim Jung Un at a concert Monday, after he was reportedly sentenced to hard labor and re-education because of his involvement with the failed nuclear summit with the U.S. in Vietnam.

Kim Yong Chol was shown attending a concert alongside Kim Jung Un by North Korean state media outlets on Monday, The Associated Press reports. He is seen in an image seated in the audience at a musical production put on by the wives of Korean People’s Army officers.

Kim Yong Chol has been North Korea’s top nuclear diplomacy official for the past year, meeting several times with President Donald Trump in Washington, and regularly with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to engage in nuclear negotiations.

South Korean media outlet Chosun Ilbo reported in May that Kim Yong Chol had been sentenced to hard labor and political re-education due to his role in the unfavorable outcome of the negotiations at the Hanoi Summit, according to an anonymous source the outlet cited.

It was also reported that another senior official, Kim Hyok Chol, along with four other officials from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry were executed for not upholding Kim Jung Un’s interest during pre-summit talks. (RELATED: Defector Reveals How Orphaned North Koreans Survived The Great Famine)

None of the reportedly executed officials have appeared in North Korean state media since the reports were made, according to The AP. Spies from Seoul said they could not confirm reports of the executions.

Pompeo responded to reports of the executions by saying the U.S. will be “doing our best to check it out.”

South Korean intelligence and media sources have previously misreported the activity of the North Korean government, given Pyongyang’s tight grasp on the outflow of state information, says USA Today.

An analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, Cheong Seong-Chang, said that Kim Yong Chol would not have reappeared in public so quickly if he were sent to re-education or forced labor, according to USA Today. He also reportedly said that it isn’t likely that Kim Jung Un executed Kim Hyok Chol, when it was Kim Yong Chol who was the more senior official involved with the Hanoi Summit talks.

“If Kim Jong Un sentences senior officials to hard labor, executes them, or puts them in political prison camps over the collapse of meetings, then no official would be willing to step up in external negotiations,” Chang explained.

“It’s unlikely that Kim would issue extreme punishment unless he’s giving up on the talks with the United States,” he continued.

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