North Korea’s Choe Ryong Hae purged for power plant malfunction

SEOUL, Nov. 24 (UPI) — Kim Jong Un purged a top North Korean aide after a landslide caused a power plant to malfunction, but promoted a military official for planting landmines that critically injured two South Korean soldiers in August, Seoul’s spy agency said.

Workers’ Party Secretary Choe Ryong Hae, who has been missing from public ceremonies since early November, was blamed for the water leakage at Mount Paektu Hero Youth Power Station after a landslide created problems, Yonhap reported.

“Choe Ryong Hae took responsibility for the collapse of the Mount Paektu power plant and was sentenced to re-education at a rural farm earlier this month,” said Lee Cheol-woo, a ruling party lawmaker, Newsis reported.

South Korea National Intelligence Service officials did not specify how the purge took place, but Kim did attend a building ceremony on Oct. 3 upon the completion of the power station, where Choe was in attendance.

The landslide took place before the power station was completed, according to the NIS.

Choe’s disappearance came as a surprise for many. Choe was Kim’s representative to Beijing during China’s Victory Day parade, and was included in a meeting between North Korean and Cuban officials in September.

But Seoul’s spy agency representatives told a parliamentary intelligence committee on Tuesday that Choe also had disagreed with Kim regarding North Korea’s youth policies, and Kim could have removed Choe from office to reprimand him.

Seoul’s intelligence sources said it is likely Choe would be restored to his official position once he completes his re-education.

Spy agency officials also said North Korea military officials responsible for planting landmines that maimed two South Korean soldiers were either retained or promoted.

General Director Kim Yong Chol of Pyongyang’s Reconnaissance Bureau kept his office after allegedly planning the attack, and a combat training director, Im Kwang Il, was promoted for his direct involvement in burying the landmines in the DMZ.

Others military officials were demoted, including an officer who did not effectively respond to the South’s shelling in August.

Seoul’s spy agency said North Korean negotiators Hwang Pyong So and Kim Yang Gon, however, have been celebrated as national heroes for brokering an agreement with the South that defused tensions.

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