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Ex-N. Korean secretary of inter-Korean affairs returns to party political bureau

By Yonhap

Published : June 19, 2023 - 10:23

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This photo shows Kim Yong-chol (Left) briefing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the results of his visit to Washington on January 24, 2019. (KCNA) This photo shows Kim Yong-chol (Left) briefing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the results of his visit to Washington on January 24, 2019. (KCNA)

Kim Yong-chol, a former top North Korean party official in charge of affairs with South Korea, has returned to the ruling party's politburo following a year of his absence from key party posts.

Kim has been elected as an alternate member of the political bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea in the latest reshuffle of party officials following a three-day party plenary meeting that ended Sunday, according to state media.

A photo carried by the Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper, described Kim as an "advisor" of the United Front Department, which handles inter-Korean affairs at the WPK. Kim, 77, was the former head of the UFD.

The latest report raises speculation that Kim, who was known for his hard-line stance on the South, may once again oversee the North's inter-Korean affairs as the North has continued to dial up tensions.

Kim, 77, served as the North's top negotiator in denuclearization talks with the United States, but his political status was severely damaged following the breakdown of the Hanoi summit in 2019.

He was effectively demoted to the head of the UFD in 2021 from the North's party secretary on South Korean affairs as the post was eliminated at a party congress.

In June last year, he was replaced by then Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon as the UFD chief, and last September, he was also removed as a member of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

Kim, a former top military general, is suspected of having masterminded the North's sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010. The torpedo attack left 46 sailors dead.

The North fired a record number of ballistic missiles last year and continued to ratchet up its provocations. Last week, it resumed its missile tests after pausing them for around two months, and on May 31, it launched a space rocket carrying a purported military spy satellite, which ended up crashing into the Yellow Sea. (Yonhap)