Purging and killing suspected rivals or officers with wavering loyalty has been a trait of the Kim family dynasty along with unusual means of execution, which have included death by close range mortars.
In 1995, soon after taking power from his father, Kim Jong-il ordered the “purge of the Sixth Army Corps,” in which more than 20 officers accused of attempting to stage a coup were killed, according to South Korean news sources.
Kim Jong-il’s greatest purge occurred in 2001, during the so-called “march to progress” in which 1 million people were killed. Hundreds of senior officials were removed from office and, with their families, sent to reeducation camps, while dozens others were executed, according to Chosun Ilbo citing South Korean intelligence reports.
As late as 2010, Kim Jong-il had ordered the purge of 100 senior officials, killing dozens of them, the last great purge of his regime.
Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim il-Sung, the founder of Communist North Korea, so tightly controlled news coming out of the country that there is “comparatively little independent information about the regime’s purges, executions, and concentration and forced labor camps,” according to University of Hawaii historian RJ Rummel. Rummel estimates, that as many as 3.5 million people could have been murdered by the country’s first supreme leader from 1948 to the early 1990s.