North Korea officials who backed Jang Song Thaek purge promoted

By Elizabeth Shim   |   Oct. 11, 2017 at 9:31 AM
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Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un has reorganized his Cabinet and some of the most powerful players in Pyongyang are a group of eight officials who supported the execution of Jang Song Thaek, according to South Korea's spy agency.

The Institute for National Security Strategy's Lee Ki-dong said Wednesday the North Koreans known as the "group of eight Samjiyon insiders" are "main players" in the era of Kim.

"They seem to have formed the core of North Korean power," Lee said, according to South Korean news service News 1.

The Samjiyon eight were identified after the group of officials, including Hwang Pyong So, Ma Won Chun and Kim Won Hong, agreed to the purge and execution of Jang, Kim's uncle-in-law, in Samjiyon County, Yanggang Province, in 2013.

The group once included Kim Yang Gon, the prominent North Korean politician who was killed in a car accident in late 2015.

The report of the group's confirmed position in the North Korean leadership comes at a time when Kim Jong Un may have promoted economic experts and his sister Kim Yo Jong to powerful seats in government, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Wednesday.

Tae Jong Su, a former vice premier and economic policymaker, was promoted and made a member of Pyongyang's Politburo and a vice chairman of the Korean Workers' Party.

The promotion could be a North Korean response to dealing with heavy economic sanctions, according to the report.

Officials in the Samjiyon eight include managers of Room or Office 39, a branch that manages Kim Jong Un's illicit funds and foreign currency reserves, according to Lee.

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