Kim Jong-un Fires Right-Hand Man After Hanoi Debacle

  • By Yoon Hyung-jun

    April 25, 2019 12:13

    Kim Yong-chol /Yonhap

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fired his erstwhile right-hand man Kim Yong-chol after the collapse of his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February.

    The National Intelligence Service here on Wednesday told lawmakers that Kim Yong-chol was replaced as head of the United Front Department by Jang Kum-chol, a member of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

    The department, which used to handle only relations with the South, grew greatly in importance when Kim Yong-chol took charge of diplomacy with the U.S. and arranged two summits with Trump.

    Kim Yong-chol, a former chief of the Army's General Reconnaissance Bureau, was promoted to head of the spy agency after its former chief Kim Yang-gon died in a mysterious car crash in 2016.

    He became the regular interlocutor of both U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NIS chief Suh Hoon.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) walks along a street after arriving in the Russian city of Vladivostok on Wednesday. /Courtesy of Primorsky Krai Administration

    He accompanied Kim Jong-un during all of his four visits to China and his two summits with Trump but did not go to Russia with the leader this week, nor was he seen among officials who sent him off at the train station.

    Though he was also removed from the Workers Party Central Committee on April 10, Kim Yong-chol still retains his position as a member of the State Affairs Commission and has not been completely purged, according to the NIS.

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