North Korean has purged its vice foreign minister as a signal that disloyalty will not be tolerated after the country's deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom defected to South Korea. Kung Sok-Ung was expelled from Pyongyang and sent to a rural farming area with his family, according to South Korea media reports Wednesday.
Four other high-ranking diplomats overseeing European affairs were also expelled from Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the purge as a punishment for the defection of Thae Yong-Ho, deputy ambassador to Britain, who fled with his family in July.
Kung, 72, had overseen relations between North Korea and Russia and Europe for nearly two decades. "Since Thae Yong-Ho's defection in late July, there has been an overall inspection throughout the foreign ministry," a source told South Korean reporters. "Kung Sok-Ung was held accountable for the embassies in Europe and purged as a result."
This is the latest incidence where Kim has singled out his enemies and anyone perceived of making a misstep by banishing them or by killing them. The executions and purges have helped him consolidate power since he took office in 2011 after the death of his father.
Kim ordered the execution of North Korea's premier for education in August after he allegedly disrespected the leader during a meeting. Hyon Yong-chol, a former defense chief, was executed in April for falling asleep during a military rally attended by Kim. The North Korean leader also ordered the death of his uncle, at one point the nation's second-highest ranking official in part because of his close ties to China, after he was charged for treason and corruption in December 2013. In all, roughly 100 party officials have been killed under Kim's authority.
Kim has increasingly tested North Korea's relations with other nations in recent months, holding nuclear missiles tests and upgrading its military while threatening the United States and South Korea.