Kim Jong Un fires 'close colleague' and security chief in latest purge

Kim chose to fire 72-year-old Kim Won Hong after the ruling party's Organization and Guidance Department - which supervises state agencies - conducted an investigation of the state security ministry, according to the South Korea government.

An official from the Unification Ministry said North Korea also executed an unspecified number of the agency's officials.

Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said Kim Won Hong was punished for "human rights abuses committed during interrogations at the State Security Department" among other things.

Since taking power in 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered a series of high-profile purges to cement his rule.

Following the purge, North Korea's elite class may try to look more allegiant to Kim, but behind the scenes, they will be pointing a finger at Kim, he added. The Yonhap cited officials as saying the investigation against Kim is underway and a proper punishment will be decided after the probe.

Kim Won Hong, North Korea's spy angency chief, has been sacked by the country's leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea's government said Friday.

Yonhap reported Kim Won Hong, a hardliner who was previously seen as close to the ruling family, was purged from the party late past year after an audit found he had been dismissed from his post but did not elaborate on the charges. His downfall is widely seen as part of purges instigated by a party leadership alarmed by the security ministry's growing clout. "It was determined that multiple senior officials, including a vice minister in the Ministry of State Security, were executed in the course of the investigation", a South Korean government official said.

"Instability in the North Korean regime is likely to increase as the elite members may become agitated and the regime's control over ordinary North Koreans could weaken", Jeong said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The North's leader has reportedly killed more than 100 military, party and government officials, including Jang and Hyon Yong Chol, a former defence chief who was executed in 2015. And it seems likely similarly designed purges may continue.

  • Joey Payne