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Seoul confirms purge of North Korea's Hyon Yong Chol

Reports of Hyon’s execution are to be viewed as rumors until there is more definitive evidence of his death, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry.

By Elizabeth Shim
Seoul confirms purge of North Korea's Hyon Yong Chol
North Korea's new Defense Minister Pak Yong Sik, seen here in the middle right, was confirmed as the replacement for purged defense chief Hyon Yong Chol on Saturday. File photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, July 13 (UPI) -- Seoul's Unification Ministry said the purge of North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol is confirmed but his execution remains unverified.

Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said Monday North Korean footage from Saturday confirmed Hyon had been purged and replaced by Pak Yong Sik, a top-ranking general in North Korea's military, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.

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North Korea's state media outlet KCNA had televised a meeting between the military delegations of North Korea and Laos. The footage included a moment where Pak was introduced as North Korea's new defense chief.

In Seoul, Jeong said reports of Hyon's execution are to be viewed as rumors, until there is more definitive evidence of his death.

Saturday's North Korea announcement was the first time since April Pyongyang introduced Pak Yong Sik as the state's defense chief.

Kim Jong Un was reported to have dismissed Defense Minister Hyon in April, after being outraged by Hyon's "disregard" for the North Korean leader during a meeting.

Seoul's spy agency has previously made conflicting claims about Hyon's status, and in May was unable to confirm whether the former defense chief was alive.

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South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported KCNA also transmitted footage of North Korea's high-ranking treasurer Jon Il Chun on Saturday.

Jon is Kim Jong Un's trusted money advisor in charge of supervising Room 39, a department in charge of managing Kim's secret funds.

South Korea press reported Jon's televised appearance was the first in 19 months. His image may have been included to dispel rumors of his defection.

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