Photos of North Korean officials emerge days after reports they had been stood down

A former spy chief and the Supreme Leader's sister have recently been pictured publicly.

Andrew Koay| June 04, 03:57 PM

A North Korean top official has re-emerged in public after reports a week before said he had been sent to a prison labour camp.

According to Reuters, a South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, reported on May 31 that North Korea's former top nuclear envoy, Kim Yong-chol, had been sent to a labour and re-education camp.

In attendance at an art performance

However, on June 3, North Korean state media KCNA published a photo of Kim Yong-chol with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un attending an art performance.

In the photo, he is sitting five seats away from Kim Jong-un and was named by KCNA as one of 12 "leading officials".

Photo via KCNA

Reuters reported that this appeared to show that the banished one still "remains a force in the power structure".

But it is unknown when the photo was taken or if it has been doctored, as the North Koreans are wont to do.

Breakdown of talks

According to The Washington Post, Kim Yong-chol, who is known as a hardline former spy chief, had previously been at the forefront of denuclearisation talks, acting as the counterpart to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) speaks with North Korean senior ruling party official Kim Yong Chol during the second US-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

He was a notable absence when Kim Jong-un visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in April, prompting reports that he had been "censored" following the breakdown of talks between the U.S. and North Korea at the February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong-Un's sister also reappears

Another official who was said to have been stood down following the Hanoi summit was Kim Jong-un's sister and close confidante Kim Yo-jong.

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un (L), sister Kim Yo Jong (R) attend the Inter-Korean Summit at the Peace House on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. Photo by Getty Images

According to the Associated Press, Kim Yo-jong was also absent from the April visit to Russia.

Chosun Ilbo reported that she had been ordered by the Supreme Leader to "lay low".

However, she too was pictured by KCNA attending a "Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance" on June 4 seated next to Kim Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju.

Photo via KCNA

Top image via KCNA