Kim Jong-Un 'had aunt poisoned', most senior North Korean official to defect regime claims

Kim Kyong Hui has been missing from public view since her husband's death

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The Independent Online

One of the most senior officials to defect from the North Korean regime has claimed leader Kim Jong-Un had his aunt poisoned a year after killing his uncle during an infamous purge.

Kim Kyong-Hui disappeared from public view in September 2013, before her husband Jang Song Thaek was notoriously killed along with other officials in a purge ordered by Kim.

Her disappearance has been widely commented on, with reports speculating she had fallen ill or even died after her husband’s death. However, South Korean intelligence agencies claimed she was still alive in February.

The North Korean defector told CNN: "On May 5th or 6th of last year. Kim Jong-Un ordered his aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, to be killed. Only his bodyguard unit, Unit 974, knew this - now senior officials also know she was poisoned."

Kim Kyong-hui

The reports were strenuously denied by a source in Pyongyang, who told the Daily NK website that Kim Kyong is very much alive and is receiving treatment for an unspecified “nerve disorder”.

“[Following the execution of Jang Song Thaek] her pre-existing nerve disorder grew much worse, so she has received a great deal of subsequent treatment. During this process, Kim Jong-Un even personally asked the doctors to treat her well,” the source was quoted as saying.

Jang-Song’s death sparked fears the disappearance of other top officials from state media could suggest they too had been killed in another extensive state-sanctioned purge.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his uncle, Jang Song Thaek

But Remco Breuker, Professor of Korean studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, doubted the plausibility of the account.

He told The Independent: “The report comes from a defector whose family name is given but nothing else. Usually when defectors break stories - and they do and they are often reliable - you know who is saying what.

“This is the kind of thing the public likes to believe about North Korea. I talked to other analysts and they were actually very angry; they said the chances that this actually happened are very, very slim, but once it gets exposed, it’s those who have been exiled who have to pay the price.”

Mr Breuker said he believed Kim Kyong is ill and unable to leave the house, raising further questions as to why Kim would order her execution. “Most people agree that she is quite ill, although we don’t know what her illness is.

"I don’t think we need to come up with detailed explanations – it has already been established by the South Korean intelligence service that she is ill.

"It’s hard to image why her own nephew would want to poison her, unless you imagine him as an evil genius, which is of course how we really like to see dictators in general."