North Korea's top negotiator ahead of the failed summit with the U.S. in February was executed a month later, while leader Kim Jong-un's erstwhile right-hand man Kim Yong-chol was sent to a labor and reeducation camp, a source said Thursday.
Kim Hyok-chol, who was the counterpart of U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun in the runup to the summit, was shot at Mirim Airport in March with four other senior officials on charges of spying for America, the source said.
Kim Jong-un is believed to have ordered the purge, which also swept up other officials in the negotiations, to contain internal unrest and mounting public dissatisfaction over the failed summit.
The source said Kim Yong-chol was sent to hard labor in Chagang Province, while Kim Song-hye of the United Front Department was sent to a political prison camp. Kim Jong-un's interpreter at the summit, Shin Hye-yong, was accused of "tarnishing the authority" of the leader for an interpreting error and is also believed to have been sent to a prison camp.
The North Korean leader's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, was told to lie low. "Kim Yo-jong has not been spotted in public since the Hanoi summit," a government official here said.
The official Rodong Sinmun daily, meanwhile, took aim at "anti-party, anti-revolutionary acts" against the leader.
"Acting like one is revering the leader in front but dreaming of something else when one turns around is an anti-party, anti-revolutionary act that has thrown away the moral fidelity toward the leader, and such people will not avoid the stern judgment of the revolution," it thundered.
"There are traitors and turncoats who only memorize words of loyalty toward the leader and even change according to the trend of the time."
The last time expressions like "anti-party," "anti-revolutionary" and "stern judgment" appeared in the official party paper was when Kim Jong-un executed his uncle Jang Song-taek in 2013.
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