Kim Jong-un orders 'execution' of North Korean vice premier Choe Yong-gon over 'policy dispute'

South Korean reports say row began over forestation

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The Independent Online

North Korea’s vice premier has been executed on the orders of Kim Jong-un following a disagreement over policy, according to reports from South Korea.

The unconfirmed reports would make Choe Yong-gon one of the most senior among around 70 high-ranking officials killed or disappeared since Kim came to power in 2011.

South Korea’s government has said it is monitoring the story, first reported by the Yonhap news agency which quoted spy agency sources.

The government’s unification ministry told the BBC that Choe was last seen in public in December 2014, and that it was investigating “the possibility of any changes in [his] circumstances”.

Yonhap reported that the execution was carried out by “shooting” in May, after Choe “had expressed discomfort against the young leader’s forestation policy”. It carried no other details.

Choe had represented North Korea in trade talks with the South in the mid-2000s, and was deputy minister for the construction industry.

High-profile purges have become characteristic of Kim’s brutal regime, though they are almost never confirmed by the country’s own government.

Last month, South Korea’s Institute for National Unification said that in the years since Kim took power following his father's death, 21 people were executed in 2012 and 82 people were executed in 2013.

The most high profile execution came in late 2013, when Kim reportedly ordered the execution of his own uncle Jang Song-thaek.

In total, the report said North Korea publically executed nearly 1,400 people between 2000 and 2013, peaking at 161 under Kim Jong-Il in 2008.

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