North Korea's "second most powerful man" has allegedly been sentenced to hard labour in a mine in order to receive an “ideological re-education”, sources in the country have said.
Mr Choe Ryong-hae, a senior secretary of Kim Jong-un's Workers' Party, "is receiving ideological re-education northeast of Pyongyang, in a mining region in the county of Songchon in South Pyongan Province", a source reportedly told CBS No Cut News, UPI reports.
"His wife, his son and spouse also have left Pyongyang," the source added.
Speculation as to Mr Ryong-hae’s whereabouts has been rife after he failed to attended a state funeral last month.
The source said following Mr Ryong-hae's removal, a portion of the Workers' Party were also dismissed.
Claims the 65-year-old is currently in Songchon dismiss earlier explanations for his disappearance by South Korean intelligence officials, who stated in November Mr Ryong-hae had been sent to a school where party officials are trained, Yonghap news agency reports.
However, another source, familiar to North Korean affairs, said the party secretary was being “re-educated” on a rural farm, following his poor performance in youth-affairs.
The reason for Mr Ryong-hae’s alleged re-education remains unclear, however some reports suggest it may be connected to problems in the construction of a dam near Mount Paeku, the supposed birth place of Kim Jon-il, Jong-un's father, news.com.au reports.
Rumours Mr Ryong-hae has been purged were quashed by Kim Youg-Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at South Korea’s Dongguk University, who told Voa News a purged official would not appear in official documentaries or on state-run television, which does not appear to be the case for the secretary.
Since Jong-Un became North Korea's supreme leader after the death of his father in 2011, there have been many reports of high officials being purged.
In 2013 state run news agencies announced Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been executed as a "traitor", while earlier this year reports suggest the dictator also ordered his aunt to be poisoned and that purges of young leaders seen as a threat to authority had also been carried out.
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