The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) has termed former army chief Ri Yong-ho "a counter revolutionary" against the ruling party, Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun quoted an anonymous source working in China-North Korea trade as saying.
The report said the WPK started to brief the general public in October on the reason for Ri's removal in July, describing him as a warlord seeking cliques within the army, and his wife as being involved in drug deals.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, Ri previeuosly served as a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, vice chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission and chief of general staff of the Korean People's Army.
Pyongyang's state media said in mid-July that Ri was removed from all his posts "due to illness" and Hyun Yong-chol was named a new vice marshal, signaling key changes to the million-man military, Xinhua reported.
On July 18, North Korea announced that leader Kim Jong-un, who assumed power seven months earlier, had been awarded the title of marshal, the country's top military post.
According to an October 30 report in the North Korean State-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim said in a 12-minute speech that a man who was unfaithful to the party and leader was valueless, even though he might be an excellent military strategist, South Korea's Yonhap News reported.
Lü Chao, a Korean Peninsula issues researcher at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said the South Korean media reports on Ri Yong-ho were probably true as recent speeches by Kim Jong-un referred to "the phenomenon of disloyalty."
However, "there is no immediate confirmation from inside North Korea about Ri's fate," Lü added.
"If it is true, this could be seen as a further step by Kim to enhance his grab for power after the young leader successfully steered through a transitional period after the death of his father Kim Jong-il nearly a year ago," Lü told the Global Times.
At a national meeting of branch chiefs of social security (police) stations held Friday, Kim Jong-un urged stepped-up efforts to identify and crack down on what he called rebellious elements of society, KCNA reported Saturday
Agencies contributed to this story