A top aide of Kim Jong-un, once described as the “second-most powerful man in North Korea”, has disappeared from public life, sparking speculation he may have been executed by death squads.
General Hwang Pyong-so once held the most senior military position in the hermit state as a Vice-Marshall after the supreme leader.
But now he has been expelled from the party for “taking bribes” and not been seen since October.
His deputy Kim Wong-hong is said to have been banished to a prison camp.
The South Korean JoongAng Ilbo reported: “If Hwang was indeed kicked out of the Workers’ Party, it would practically mean the end of his political career, and possibly his life, though it is unknown whether or not he is still alive.”
Last week Kim visited Korea’s most mystical mountain, Mount Paektu – something he typically does before ordering the death of his top brass.
He was also there in April 2015, just before executing former defence chief Hyon Yong-chol, and in November 2013, before disposing of his own uncle Jang Song-thaek among other top officials.