N. Korea vice premier 'executed'

SEOUL - South Korea's government says it is monitoring reports that North Korea's vice-premier Choe Yong-gon was killed in May on the orders of Kim Jong-un.

Mr Choe was executed after he "expressed discomfort against the young leader's forestation policy", South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports.

Close to 70 officials have been killed under Kim Jong-un's rule, Yonhap says.

The BBC has not been able to verify the claims. North Korea rarely confirms the South's reports of executions.

Mr Choe was last seen publicly in December, South Korea's unification ministry said.

The ministry said it was "closely monitoring the possibility of any changes in Choe's circumstances".

Few details about the execution were given by Yonhap, which is often first to report news from North Korea.

Choe Yong-gon was deputy minister of construction and building material industries, and had represented North Korea in trade talks in Seoul in the mid-2000s.

He was appointed as one of seven vice-premiers in June last year, and his promotion was seen by one analyst as a sign Pyongyang was keen to maintain close ties with the South.

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