South Korea's spy agency says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent one of his top aides to a farm for "re-education" to punish him for the sloppy construction of a power plant.
Choe Ryong-hae, a member of the ruling party's politburo standing committee, was purged earlier this month, Seoul MPs told reporters after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) briefed them in a closed session.
Questions have swirled about the fate of Choe – one of Kim's closest confidantes – after his name was omitted from an official funeral committee list this month.
The NIS said Choe was probably purged to take the blame for a water leak at a power station completed in late October at Mount Paekdu near the border with China.
Choe had been chosen to take a personal message to Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Only last September he was selected to visit Beijing as North Korea's representative at China's giant World War II victory anniversary parade.
He was mentioned in state media as recently as October 31, when he made a statement about a ruling party congress to be held next year.
But Choe's name was omitted from an official list of 170 names published on November 9 for the state funeral of Marshal Ri Ul-Sol, who died of lung cancer.