In what can only be described as a “told you so” moment, the North Korean official who was roundly said to have been executed this past week is alive and well.
Kim Yong-chol has now been seen in pictures released by North Korean state television attending a musical performance held by the wives of Korean People’s Army officers in Pyongyang.
Reacting to reports in the South Korean media that Kim Hyok Chol had been executed by firing squad for being a United States spy, western media sources wasted no time in reprinting these allegations without fact-checking or mentioning that fact that the source, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. As we observed on Friday, Chosun Ilbo has a track record of printing fake news about North Korea executing people in conjunction with campaigns by South Korean intelligence.
In 2013, the newspaper printed an allegation from an “unnamed source” in China that 12 people had been executed by firing squad, including Hyon Song Wol, the ex-girlfriend of Kim Jong Un. The reasoning behind the executions was said to Hyon making a sex tape that was then sold and spread into China. Apparently, she was machine-gunned. The news was again repeated throughout western media without question. The problem with this, of course, is that Hyon Song Wol is alive and well and, far from being shamed and out of favour, was elected to the Workers Party’s Central Committee in 2017.
In 2016, it was General Ri Yong-gil who had allegedly been executed on charges of “factionalism, abuse of power and corruption”, the execution claiming to be more “evidence” of a “reign of terror” by Kim Jong Un. Yet again the news was repeated through the mainstream western media without question. Of course, General Ri Yong-gil had not been executed at all. Again, just like Hyon Song Wol, he was quite alive and serving as a member of the Workers Party’s Central Military Commission. In 2018 he returned as the army’s chief of general staff with Reuters saying he was “known for [his] unquestioning support of leader Kim Jong Un”.
The continued attempts by the media to portray North Korea as a murderous and insane despotic state is exactly the same level of propaganda that has been issued for many years against the likes of Syria, Iran and Venezuela. The propaganda campaign against North Korea is much harder to pick apart through a lack of official and unofficial sources from inside what is an insular state.
Western media must stop serving the propaganda agenda of both their own governments and foreign states, reprinting these claims without question merely undermines the faith of the people in a free and open press and lends credence to claims that they are merely an extension of government agendas.