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North Korea reportedly executed top officials after failed summit

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A senior North Korean official who met President Donald Trump at the White House last year was sentenced to hard labor and ideological “re-education,” according to South Korean news organization Chosun Ilbo.

Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling party’s Central Committee and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart, received the sentencing as part of the regime’s purge of top officials, The Ilbo reported, citing an unnamed North Korean source.

Kim was part of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s entourage during the two US-North Korean summits. He was photographed with Trump during talks in June 2018, where he was pictured delivering an oversized envelope and letter as symbolic gesture.

Trump described the letter as “ very nice,” though he admitted he had not yet opened it at the time.

In addition to Kim’s sentencing, Kim Hyok Chol, the North Korean envoy leading the negotiations during the US-North Korea summit in Vietnam, was alleged to have spied for the US and was executed in March, The Ilbo reported.

An interpreter who allegedly made a critical interpretation error at the summit was also sentenced to prison after she was deemed to have “undermined” the regime’s reputation.

Read more: Trump says he was defending Joe Biden when he called him a ‘low IQ individual’

The suspected purge of officials comes amid the breakdown of negotiations between the US and North Korea, which Trump shrugged off as inconsequential. The Singapore summit abruptly ended without a deal due to disagreements on the easing of sanctions on North Korea and the dismantling of the country’s nuclear facilities. Trump has since downplayed the stalemate and said he still had high hopes for the regime.

“My people think it could have been a violation,” Trump said on Monday in response to North Korea’s missile tests earlier in May. “I view it differently.”

Other news organizations have not confirmed The Ilbo’s reporting.

In 2013, North Korean singer and Kim Jong Un’s purported ex-girlfriend Hyon Song-wol was misreported as having been executed by a machine-gun firing squad after making pornographic films. Five years later, Hyon led a North Korean delegation to South Korea during the Winter Olympics.

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