North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has executed an estimated 70 officials since taking power in late 2011 in a “reign of terror” that far exceeds the bloodshed of his dictator father’s early rule, South Korean officials said Thursday.
An official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who refused to be named, citing office rules, confirmed that the spy agency believes the younger Kim has executed about 70 officials but wouldn’t reveal how it obtained the information.
Experts say Kim could be using fear to solidify his leadership, but those efforts could fail if he doesn’t improve the country’s shattered economy.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, at a forum in Seoul, compared Kim Jong Un’s 70 executions with those of his late father, Kim Jong Il, who he said executed about 10 officials during his first years in power.
High-level government purges have a long history in North Korea. To strengthen his power, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, removed pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions within the senior leadership in the years after the 1950-53 Korean War. The high-ranking victims included Pak Hon Yong, formerly the vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the country’s foreign minister, who was executed in 1955 after being accused of spying for the United States.