A FORMER North Korean military chief who was widely reported to have been executed in February is actually alive, according to Pyongyang’s state media.
The former high-ranking army chief was not only reported to be among the living but also in current possession of several new senior-level jobs, a stark contrast to information gathered by the South Korean government.
The news of Ri Yong Gil marks yet another blunder for South Korean intelligence officials, who have often gotten information wrong in tracking developments with their rival.
The latest revelation also points to difficulties even professional spies have in figuring out the goings-on in one of the world’s most closed-off governments.
Ri, who was considered one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s most trusted aides, missed two key national meetings in February. Seoul intelligence officials later said Kim had him executed for corruption and other charges.
In February, a South Korean official said Monday Ri’s purported execution was part of Kim’s effort to bolster his grip on power.
The official did not reveal how the information was obtained and spoke on condition of anonymity because it involved confidential intelligence on North Korea.
South Korea has previously claimed that North Korea has staged 70 executions since current leader Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011.
In May last year, People’s Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire for talking back to Kim, complaining about his policies, and sleeping during a meeting.
Kim has removed key members of the old guard through a series of purges since taking over after the death of his father Kim Jong Il.
Additional reporting by Associated Press