SINGAPORE — North Korean state media reported Monday that a close aide to leader Kim Jong Un attended an amateur musical performance over the weekend, just days after a South Korean newspaper story said he had been sent into hard labor.
Kim Yong Chol was reportedly among officials in the audience of a performance delivered by the wives of military officers on Sunday. Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju were also in attendance, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, ran a photo of a man who appeared to be Kim Yong Chol sitting near the leader in the audience.
It was the first reporting to feature Kim Yong Chol by North Korean media since the convening of a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s top legislature, in April, according to Radiopress news agency, which analyzes overseas broadcasts.
Citing an unnamed North Korean source, the Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean newspaper, reported Friday that Kim Yong Chol had been sent to hard labor in the country’s north for his role in the breakdown of a summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February.
The Feb. 27-28 summit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi ended abruptly amid differences over the scope of denuclearization measures North Korea would commit to taking in exchange for sanctions relief.
Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party, was seen to have led North Korea’s diplomatic efforts with the United States. He twice met with Trump at the White House, in June last year and this January.
The Chosun Ilbo said in the same report that North Korea’s special representative for U.S. affairs Kim Hyok Chol, who led his country’s preparations for the February meeting, was executed in March in the suburbs of Pyongyang on a charge of spying for the United States.
Both the U.S. and South Korean governments have been cautious about the South Korean media report, which has yet to be verified independently.
Various reports have emerged of Kim Hyok Chol’s status, including one saying that the former ambassador to Spain has been reassigned to the Foreign Ministry from the powerful State Affairs Commission.