Choe Ryong-hae, a vice chairman of North Korea's ruling party, is believed to have played a role in the latest dismissal of the country's spy chief, a report by a South Korean state-run think tank said Sunday.
Kim Won-hong, 72, was fired as minister of state security in mid-January after a probe by the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) found his agency had abused authority.
Choe directed his party aides to conduct surveillance of Kim's ministry, inviting Kim's resentment, according to the report by the Institute for National Security Strategy.
"There was a source of friction between Choe and Kim. It is believed that Choe had played some role in (Kim Jong-un's) dismissal of the spy chief," the report said.
Choe is one of the close aides to the North Korean leader. But, to maintain his monolithic regime, Kim Jong-un does not allow any officials to exert excessive influence.
The report said that Choe has remained low-key since he was reinstated after being punished for his mishandling of a power plant project in late November 2015.
"To maintain his clout as a heavyweight, Choe needs a practical influence in appointment, but he is facing limitations, as Kim Jong-un has restricted his role (at the party) to prevent him from expanding his power base," the report added. (Yonhap)