The North Korean official who handed Trump a 'very nice' appreciation letter is reportedly now in a prison camp

Shealah Craighead/White HousePresident Donald Trump and Kim Yong Chol.
  • Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean official who met President Donald Trump at the White House last year, was sentenced to hard labour and ideological “re-education,” the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Friday, citing an unnamed North Korean source.
  • Kim was part of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s entourage during the two US-North Korean summits.
  • An interpreter accused of making a critical interpretation error at the summit was also sentenced to prison after she was deemed to have “undermined” North Korea’s reputation, the report said.
  • Previous reporting on North Korean executions has been debunked.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A senior North Korean official who met President Donald Trump at the White House last year was sentenced to hard labour and ideological “re-education,” according to the South Korean news organisation Chosun Ilbo.

Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling party’s Central Committee and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart, received the sentencing as part of the government’s purge of top officials, Chosun Ilbo reported on Friday, citing an unnamed North Korean source.

Kim was part of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s entourage during the two US-North Korean summits. During the talks in June 2018, he was pictured delivering an oversized envelope and a letter to Trump as a symbolic gesture. Trump described the letter as “very nice,” though he said at the time that he had not yet opened it.

In addition to Kim’s sentencing, Kim Hyok Chol, the North Korean envoy leading the negotiations during the summit in Vietnam earlier this year, was alleged to have spied for the US and was executed in March, Chosun Ilbo reported.

An interpreter accused of making a critical interpretation error at the summit was also sentenced to prison after she was deemed to have “undermined” North Korea’s reputation, the report said.


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The report of the purge of officials comes amid a breakdown in US-North Korea negotiations, which Trump has shrugged off as inconsequential. The Vietnam summit ended abruptly without a deal, as the two countries disagreed on North Korea’s goal of easing sanctions and the US’s goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear facilities. Trump has since downplayed the stalemate and said he still has high hopes for the government.

In response to North Korea’s missile tests earlier in May,Trump said on Monday: “My people think it could have been a violation … I view it differently.”

Other news organisations have not confirmed the Chosun Ilbo report. The Associated Press cautioned that “it’s important to note that both South Korean media and the government in Seoul have a history of reporting scoops about the inner workings of North Korea that turn out to be wrong.”

In 2013, Hyon Song Wol, a North Korean singer who’s said to be Kim Jong Un’s ex-girlfriend, was misreported as having been executed by a machine-gun firing squad after allegations that she made pornographic films. Five years later, Hyon led a North Korean delegation to South Korea during the Winter Olympics.

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