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Most N. Koreans unaware of sacking of spy agency chief: report

2017/02/12 10:42

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- Most North Koreans are unaware that the head of the country's spy agency has been sacked, a U.S.-based media outlet said Sunday.

Citing Japan's media outlet Asia Press that claimed to have contacted four North Koreans to check if Kim Won-hong's fall from grace has reached ordinary people, Radio Free Asia (RFA) said most in the reclusive country were oblivious of what took place.

RFA said that Jiro Ishimaru, who heads the Osaka office of Asia Press, pointed out none of the North's state-run media actually reported Kim's dismissal.

Kim, 72, was fired from the head of the powerful Ministry of State Security in mid-January after the probe found the agency had abused its authority, according to Seoul's unification ministry. He was also demoted to major general from full general, it said.

North Korea's security ministry has powerful authority as it screens so-called reactionary elements in society, supervises political prisoners' camps and arrests those who attempt to flee the country.

The ministry said Kim was removed over the suspicion that the intelligence agency committed wrongdoings, including human rights violations, abuse of power and corruption. Such actions could have fueled resentment among the populace that the regime wants to control.

RFA then said that all North Koreans that were contacted said the level of corruption by state security officials were becoming serious, with more asking for bribes.

The spike in officials extorting money is the result of shortfalls in rations distributed by the state that is making everyone's lives difficult.

yonngong@yna.co.kr

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