North Korea’s senior official Kim Yang-gon dies

Kim Yang-gon.

Kim Yang-gon.

Kim Yang-gon, secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party and the director of the United Front Department, died Tuesday in a car accident, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Wednesday.

He was 73.

The KCNA referred to Kim, who was a member of the party’s Central Committee Politbureau, as the “closest comrade” to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The North said that it will hold a state funeral for Kim on Thursday, and that the ceremony will be led by Kim Jong-un.

Kim was one of two high-ranking North Korean officials who attended a rare inter-Korean dialogue in August following a landmine blast in the DMZ between the two divided countries. He and fellow participants agreed on a deal at that time to defuse military tensions and promote civilian exchanges.

Kim had for a long time dealt with inter-Korean issues since the reign of Kim Jong-il, the father of Kim Jong-un. The late Kim Jong-il passed away in late 2011.

Having been appointed to head the party’s United Front Department in 2007, Kim Yang-gon contributed to organizing the two Koreas summit held between Kim Jong-il and South Korea’s then-President Roh Moo-hyun in the same year.

The South Korean government has expressed its condolences for his passing.

(This article was originally published in The Korea Times)

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