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Hwang Pyong So, left, a senior aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends the closing ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Oct. 4, 2014.   © Reuters
North Korea Crisis

North Korea reported punishing top military officials

Unusual move may reflect power shakeup

SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has disciplined two officers in charge of one of the regime's most powerful military organs, South Korea's intelligence agency said Monday.

Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong So, a close adviser to Kim, and his deputy Kim Won Hong were "punished" for an "impure attitude" as the General Political Bureau undergoes its first audit in two decades, said South Korean lawmakers briefed by the National Intelligence Service.

The North's investigation is being led by Choe Ryong Hae, vice chairman of the ruling party's Central Committee. Details concerning the punishment have yet to be released.

In a shift from his father Kim Jong Il's "military first" policy, Kim Jong Un has looked to tighten state management in the party's hands. Choe has climbed up the party ranks through a variety of posts and was most recently made a member of the influential Central Military Commission in October. If Hwang has actually been disciplined, it could be a reflection of that power change.

Seoul's spy agency also reported seeing brisk vehicle activity and engine tests at North Korea's missile research facilities on Monday. Pyongyang insisted at the United Nations in October that space development is a right recognized under international law. Intelligence officials now fear that North Korea could fire an array of ballistic missiles this year under the name of satellite launches and peaceful development of space, South Korean lawmakers said.

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