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South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) described the killings in a longer briefing on Kim’s response to the coronavirus, which they say has become increasingly erratic. They explained that Kim had locked down parts of the country, banned sea fishing, tightened import restrictions and muzzled his officials to avoid provoking the United States, according to lawmakers at the briefing.
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The NIS also reported that North Korea had attempted and failed to hack South Korea for information on the vaccines.
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Two officials later shared details of the meeting with South Korean media.
The NIS said Kim was displaying “excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” in the face of the pandemic, lawmaker Ha Tae-keung told The Associated Press.
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He said Kim had a high-profile currency trader run on the country’s ailing exchange rate in October. He also said that an official was executed for importing goods from abroad, in violation of customs rules relating to coronaviruses.
The names of the two executed officials were not disclosed.
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Reports from North Korea are difficult to independently verify due to Kim’s strong hold over all aspects of society. Most of the news emerges through the filter of South Korea, including the NIS, which has an uneven track record with its claims.
However, a capricious coronavirus murder wouldn’t be out of place for Kim.
The North Korean leader had his uncle brutally killed in 2013 and presided over several other executions of cadres over the years, including one suspected case of death by flamethrower. He also had his half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam, murdered with a nerve agent in Malaysia in 2017.
The country is expected to hold a military parade in January to build up muscle for newly elected US President Joe Biden, according to the NIS.
North Korea says it has not found a single case of the coronavirus within its country’s borders to date.
–With files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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