The South Korean government has announced that it is “looking into” rumours about the disappearance and purge of North Korea’s number two leader, Choe Ryong-hae.
Seoul’s Ministry of Unification has not yet confirmed any details, according spokesperson Kim Eui-do at a press briefing on Monday morning.
In a report last Friday, the Seoul-based Free North Korea (FNK) Radio cited unidentified sources who said Choe Ryong-hae, who is Pyongyang’s military politburo chief and ideological watchdog, was being questioned behind bars.
The reasons behind his rumoured arrest were unknown, but they speculated that Choe had “violated the leadership system” of top leader Kim Jong-un, FNK Radio reported.
Choe was believed to have emerged as one of Pyongyang’s senior leaders after the high-profile execution of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December.
He might have fallen out of Kim’s favour because he tried to take hold of various state-run businesses after Jang’s execution, or because he was seen as a threat to Kim, reported the South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo.
Rumours of Choe’s purge surfaced after he appeared to be absent from Pyongyang’s major events in late February.