North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the execution of his vice premier, according to a South Korean news report, in the latest alleged purge of Pyongyang's senior leadership.
Citing an unnamed source "with knowledge of the North," the Yonhap news agency said Vice Premier Choe Yong Gon was killed by firing squad in May after expressing displeasure with Kim's forestry policies.
Seoul's Unification Ministry would not confirm the report, but noted Choe has not been spotted in public for about eight months. "The government is closely watching to see what might have happened to him," it added.
Pyongyang has not commented on the fate of the 63-year-old Choe, who was appointed as vice premier just last year. If confirmed, it would be the second execution of a senior North Korean official this year.
South Korean intelligence reported earlier in the year that defense minister Hyon Yong Chol was executed with an anti-aircraft gun for apparently falling asleep at a military event. The North later confirmed Hyon had been replaced.
Since taking power in 2011 following the unexpected death of his father, Kim Jong Un has overseen a period of massive change within the highest ranks of government.
Seoul's National Intelligence Agency estimated earlier this year that Kim has ordered the execution of 15 senior officials this year as punishment for challenging his authority.
Some information for this report came from AFP and Reuters.