A prominent figure in the North Korean government, Kim Yang-gon, died in an automobile accident on Tuesday. Kim Yang-gon was highly regarded as a top aide to North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, and he was largely responsible for preventing the outbreak of violence between North and South Korea. With his passing, many political analysts believe that the long-lasting tension between the two countries could quickly escalate into violence.
The news of Kim Yang-gon’s death was reported by the North Korean state news agency. In the summer of 2015, Kim Yang-gon was largely credited with helping the two countries avoid violent conflict after a North Korean landmine explosion seriously wounded two South Korean soldiers.
Some people suspect that there may have been suspicious activity behind the North Korean’s death. Similar suspicions have also arisen in past traffic deaths involving highly ranked officials in North Korea. Kim Jong-un has been known to execute leading country officials in the past. But for now, most of the concern involves maintaining peace between the two Koreas.
Professor at the University of North Korean Studies Yang Moo-jin said, “This is going to deliver negative impacts on inter-Korean relations. In light of the North’s nature, I don’t see anyone who can replace him in his role in daring to offer policy ideas and advice to the leader in these fields.”
The Korean Central News Agency has described Kim Yang-gon as one of Kim Jong-un’s most trustworthy comrades. The agency said that his death was a tremendous loss to the party and the people of North Korea.
Although progress was made over the summer, more recent negotiations between North and South Korea have not achieved much success. There remain major issues, such as helping families separated by war reunite and how to conduct cross-border tours in Mount Kumang in North Korea. With Kim Yang-gon’s passing it will now be even more challenging for the two countries to set aside their differences.
Kim Yang-gon had served three generations of the state’s ruling dynasty. He was 73 years old. A funeral is expected to be held on Thursday.