North Korea has officially confirmed the purging of its defense chief two months after Seoul’s spy service said he had been executed for disloyalty to leader Kim Jong Un, a South Korean official said Monday.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in May that People’s Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire for talking back to Kim, complaining about his policies and sleeping during a meeting.
South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee told reporters Monday that this confirmed Hyon’s replacement and purging.
Since taking power upon the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in December 2011, Kim has orchestrated a series of executions, purgings and personnel reshuffles in what outside analysts say is an attempt to bolster his grip on power. Some experts say repeated bloody power shifts indicate the young leader is still struggling to establish himself.
South Korean officials say 70 North Korean officials have been executed since Kim’s inauguration. The most notable execution before Hyon’s happened in 2013 when Kim had his uncle and No. 2, Jang Song Thaek, executed for alleged treason.
Confirmation of Hyon’s ‘execution’ comes just days after it was reported that the manager of terrapin farm had also been executed on Kim’s orders after several of the creatures died during a power cut.