The omission of Jang Myong-jin and Ryu Kum-chol could indicate the two were fired for their involvement in a similar, though failed, rocket launch in April, Yonhap News Agency reported Friday.
The community country declared 101 scientists and officials as national heroes and gave them medals for the Dec. 12 launch of a long-range rocket. North Korean officials said the launch was to send a satellite into orbit, but the international community condemned it as a test of ballistic missile technology.
Jang was in charge of leading the launching site for the April launch, and Ryu was a deputy director at the North Korean space technology committee, leading a news conference with foreign correspondents.
A North Korean defector, whose name was not reported, said there was no reason to leave the two off the list of national heroes unless they were purged for the failed April attempt.
"It is unlikely that Jang Myong-jin would not have been named a national hero in the latest occasion had he not been purged," he said. "The North seems to have purged Jang on account of leading the failure."