North Korean defense minister Hyon Yong-Chol has been executed by anti-aircraft fire for disloyalty and showing disrespect to leader Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s intelligence agency says. Hundreds of officials watched Hyon’s execution at a military academy in northern Pyongyang on April 30, Han Ki-Beom, the deputy director of the South’s National Intelligence Agency, told a parliamentary committee.
Hyon, who was appointed to the post of Minister of the People’s Armed Forces less than a year ago, was apparently caught dozing off during formal military events and also talked back to Kim on several occasions.
Han told the committee that Hyon was executed with anti-aircraft fire – a method cited in various unconfirmed reports as being reserved for senior officials whom the leadership wishes to make examples of.
If confirmed, it marks another demonstration of Kim’s ruthlessness in dealing with even the most senior officials suspected of disloyalty, following the execution of his uncle and one-time political mentor Jang Song-Thaek in 2013.
It also points to possible power struggles within the top leadership, following Kim’s decision to cancel a scheduled visit to Moscow last week in order to deal with “internal issues”.
Kim has unleashed a series of purges to tighten his grip on power in the reclusive nation after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011. Late last month, the South’s National Intelligence Agency reported that Kim had ordered the execution of 15 senior officials so far this year, including two vice ministers, for questioning his authority.
[Sydney Morning Herald]