As Minister of State Security, Kim Won Hong oversaw the North Korean agency responsible for running the country's notorious prison camps, rooting out spies in North Korea and conducting counterespionage operations overseas.
While Kim Won-hong's demotion should not necessarily be read as his purge or ouster, the fact that his aides were executed means that, depending on how the situation plays out, this could lead to his permanent disgrace, rather than his reinstatement after a certain period of good behavior.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sacked his spy chief for abuse of power and executed officials of the state security agency, South Korea's Unification Ministry said yesterday. In highly paranoid ruling echelons in North Korea, a fall from high positions is most often followed by quick death, usually by the firing squad.
Since taking power in 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered a series of high-profile purges to cement his rule. The Yonhap cited officials as saying the investigation against Kim is underway and a proper punishment will be decided after the probe.
An official from the Unification Ministry said North Korea also executed an unspecified number of the agency's officials.
In some cases, however, reports of mass executions and sackings have proved unreliable.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's recent sacking of the chief of the country's spy agency is likely to aggravate the sense of instability among the North Korean elite class, a report by the state-run Institute for National Security said Sunday. These included Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's younger sister who is vice director of the party's Propaganda and Agitation Department.
"There is always a possibility that purges continue as part of constantly strengthening power", he told reporters at a press conference in South Korea.
North Korea's security ministry has powerful authority as it screens so-called reactionary elements in society, supervises political prisoners' camps and even arrests those who attempt to flee the country.