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June 27, 2017

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After purge, N. Korea appoints new coal minister

SEOUL--North Korea has replaced its coal minister, apparently after the shock execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, who had been accused of attempting to take control of the country's lucrative coal export business.

Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency introduced Mun Myong Hak as "Minister of Coal Industry" as it was reporting on the 30th anniversary of the Pukchang Area Coal-Mining Complex in the western province of South Phyongan on Monday.

The last time the North's coal minister was mentioned in the country's state media was a year ago, when Rim Nam Su was in office.

The shock purge and execution of Jang Song Thaek, the once-powerful uncle and political regent to young leader Kim Jong Un, was sparked by his attempts to take over the North's coal export industry, South Korea's spy chief Nam Jae Joon said last month.

The moves by Jang contributed to the North's economic troubles, Kim Jong Ha, chief secretary of the secretariat of the cabinet said last month in an interview with the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan.

The Choson Sinbo report also indirectly confirmed Kim Jong Ha had replaced Kim Yong Ho following Jang's downfall.

It is not known what became of Kim Yong-Ho or Rim Nam-Su.

Last week, Pyongyang's Chosun Chungang TV introduced Kim Yong Kwang as the new Minister of Metal Industry.

"Probably, these are all part of a government reshuffle related with Jang's purge," Chang Yong Seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification at the Seoul National University, told AFP.

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