The ouster of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek was evidently part of a wider purge that also resulted in the execution of another of Jang's confidants, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Wednesday.
The paper quoted a source as saying Ri Su-yong, a deputy department chief in the Workers Party who used to manage the coffers for former leader Kim Jong-il, was one of five senior officials who have been killed.
The Unification Ministry was unable to confirm the story, saying an official who looked like Ri attended a Politburo meeting on Sunday. "We don't know whether Ri was executed or not," a ministry official said.
The regime certainly executed two key associates of Jang's, Ri Ryong-ha and Jang Su-gil late last month.
Their public shooting on charges of corruption and disobedience in the presence of senior officials was evidently a warning to influential circles not to defy leader Kim Jong-un.
There is now speculation that the execution in August of a dozen performers with the Unhasu Orchestra on charges of making pornography was already related to the current purge surrounding Jang.
"As befits an authoritarian state, the regime will ruthlessly execute anybody who challenges the authority of Kim Jong-un," said Prof. Cho Young-ki of Korea University. "It's likely that scores of Jang Song-taek's associates will be executed if they are linked to internecine struggles."