North Korea fires spy chief after inquiry

North Korea has dismissed its minister of state security, a key aide to leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea said yesterday, in what a high-profile defector said would be another sign of a "crack in the elite" in Pyongyang if true. North Korea's leader is believed to have executed hundreds if government and military officials for consolidating his oppressive rule.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sacked the intelligence agency chief, the South Korean Unification Ministry said on Friday.

However, this time the official reasons for the purge quite ironically includes the unthinkable - - human rights violations.

Officials considered a threat to Kim have faced punishments ranging from dismissal to execution.

Yonhap reported Kim Won Hong, a hardliner who was previously seen as close to the ruling family, was purged from the party late previous year after an audit found he had been dismissed from his post but did not elaborate on the charges. It also oversees extreme political watch and vetting and supervises prison camps. The minister led the December 2013 purge of Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Thaek. The workers' Party probe followed simmering agitation in the rank and file. His downfall is widely seen as part of purges instigated by a party leadership alarmed by the security ministry's growing clout.

Kim Jong-un at orphanage in North Korea
GETTY KIM JONG-UN North Korea's ruler looks pretty in pink at the orphange

The South Korean ministry did not offer concrete evidence in this regard.

Kim has executed more than 100 senior military, party and government officials after he took power.

"Instability in the North Korean regime is likely to increase as the elite members may become agitated and the regime's control over ordinary North Koreans could weaken", Jeong said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The action taken against the former spy chief, who had been instrumental in executing Kim's reign of terror, is meant to solidify the leader's supremacy and similarly designed purges may further accelerate down the road, Kwak predicted. "He is likely to conduct numerous purges and overhauls that can shift responsibility for poor past performances to bureaucrats this year", a report by the Institute for National Security Strategy said.

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  • Adam Floyd