By Donald Kirk

The execution of North Korea’s military chief days after he nodded off during a speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un reflects Kim’s deep insecurity about his grip over a recalcitrant elite of senior and mid-level officers and cadres.

The crux of the controversy in Pyongyang appears to focus on Kim’s rash moves to escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula. Kim has been photographed smiling broadly as he witnessed missile tests, most recently during what Pyongyang claimed was the firing of a SLBM or submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Defense analysts in Washington question whether the missile was actually launched from a submarine. Rather, they say, it may have been a high-explosive device that gave a visually convincing impression before descending into the sea not far from where it was fired. Similarly, North Korean missile tests conducted fairly regularly in recent months have been more for shock effect than for any real purpose.

Exactly what Hyon Yong-Chol, 66-year-old minister of the People’s Armed Forces, i.e., defense minister, did to incur Kim Jong-Un’s wrath is not clear, but the inference was that he had not only shown contempt for the young leader but also may have disagreed with him on crucial points. Read more

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