N.Korea Calls Back Diplomats Close to Jang Song-taek

Hong Yong, North Korea's deputy chief of mission to UNESCO, returned to Pyongyang on Monday as part of a wider recall of diplomats who had been close to executed eminence grise Jang Song-taek. Hong follows Pak Kwang-chol, the ambassador to Sweden who returned to North Korea last Friday.

Before Jang was executed, the regime recalled Jon Yong-jin, Jang's brother-in-law and ambassador to Cuba, and Jang Yong-chol, his nephew and ambassador to Malaysia.

"The ongoing purge of Jang's associates is an ominous sign," a source said. "It seems the regime is recalling any diplomats who are branded as Jang's associates to Pyongyang."

North Korean trade officials based in Beijing and Dandong are also reportedly being recalled.

But Ambassador to Beijing Ji Jae-ryong and Ambassador to Moscow Kim Yong-jae, who were also close to Jang, are still in their posts. The source speculated that Ji has so far been spared in order to preserve relations with China but will get the chop sooner or later.

China's own ambassador to Pyongyang comes to the end of his tour early next year, which could furnish an opportunity to replace Ji.

A diplomatic source in Beijing said, "Since Jang's execution, embassy staffers in Beijing have been acting very cautiously, only going out in groups and buying food in bulk."

Ji is also reportedly keeping a low profile.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 31, 2013 09:50 KST