North Korea’s top official in charge of handling relations with South Korea has died in a car crash, as reported by state media, raising questions as to whether ties between the two neighbouring countries will suffer.
Kim Yang-gon was high up in leader Kim Yong-un’s government, as secretary of the Workers’ Party central committee and since 2007 the head of its United Front Department, which is in charge of the country’s relationship with South Korea.
The 73-year-old aide had helped to ease tensions between the two Koreas in August after two South Korean soldiers were injured in artillery fire and a landmine explosion supposedly initiated by North Korea.
“With regard to South Korean policy, Kim Yang-gon had a very good social network and was a good interlocutor for the North with the South,” said Michael Madden, an expert on North Korea's leadership.
North Korea dictator Kim Yong-un has executed anyone who appeared to pose a threat to his power – including his uncle Jang Song Thaek in 2013.
Experts have questioned the number of suspicious road traffic deaths of high ranking officials in recent years, but also said North Korea’s road network is poorly maintained.
The state funeral will be held tomorrow.