North Korea’s Army chief Ri Yong-ho may have been ousted for defying orders and moving troops near Pyongyang during a military exercise, South Korean intelligence sources told a major South Korean news agency.
The troop move drew the ire of Ri’s main rivals Jang Song-taek, the uncle and guardian of leader Kim Jong-un, and Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, Chosun.com reported.
While it is clear that the situation on the Korean peninsula was unstable following the death of Kim Jong-il, the news agency makes no mention of whether the troop moves may have been linked to a possible coup d’état.
“Analysis of intelligence shows Ri Yong-ho’s ouster was a punitive measure taken due to his uncooperative attitude” as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sought to tighten his grip on the military, a lawmaker quoted the National Intelligence Service as telling the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee.
Chosun.com reports that hundreds of thousands of US dollars were also discovered during a raid on Ri’s home, which also provided valuable evidence for Choe to accuse him of corruption.
North Korea’s military elite controlled 70 per cent of the country’s businesses that brought in foreign currency under late leader Kim Jong-il and became a state within a state, the news agency affiliated with Chosunilbo, a major South Korean newspaper said.
The rise of Kim Jong-un, however, saw the military lose control of such companies to the Workers Party, and Ri was apparently targeted for being at the heart of a group of disgruntled officers, the news agency said.
“Ri’s uncooperative attitude included unilaterally repositioning the troops and expressing dissatisfaction over the transfer of control to the party of the North’s businesses that generate foreign currency,” the NIS added.
Apart from legitimate businesses, including sea food exports, Japanese police suspect North Korea of smuggling drugs, including meta-amphetamines into Japan, where they are peddled by the Yakuza and other criminal syndicates.
North Korea is also believed to be the centre of a counterfeiting operation creating vast amounts of faked hard currency, including US dollars and Euros. The counterfeit US 100 dollar bills are known as “Super K.” The bills are said to be of high quality and difficult to tell from genuine US currency.
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