North Korean executes military chief for treason: South's spy agency says
The head of the North Korean army has been executed for insubordination and treason, South Korea's intelligence agency said Wednesday, in a report that, if true, would underline the brutal extents to which Kim Jong Un is going to consolidate power.
Hyon Yong Chol, the chief of North Korea’s People's Armed Forces, was publicly executed by firing squad using an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in Pyongyang at the end of last month, officials from the National Intelligence Service told local reporters at a briefing in Seoul.
The NIS also delivered a similar report to lawmakers in a closed-door parliamentary session Wednesday, according to the South's Yonhap News Agency.
Hyon was seen dozing off during a military event and did not carry out Kim's instructions, Han Ki-beom, the deputy director of the NIS told the committee, Yonhap reported.
The report could not be independently verified and the NIS's claims turn out to be wrong as often as they are right. The NIS had previously told lawmakers that it expected Kim to travel to Moscow for Russia's Victory Day celebrations last weekend, but he did not go.
Still, the NIS's report is the latest suggestion that Kim Jong Un, the 30-something third-generation leader of North Korea, has tightened his grip through a reign of terror. Kim, who succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, at the end of 2011, had his uncle and mentor, Jang Song Taek, executed at the end of 2013, because he had disobeyed orders and worked in secret to build up his base of power.
The NIS last month told lawmakers that Kim Jong Un had ordered the execution of 15 other senior officials this year, some by machine gun.
North Korean defectors have recently been saying that executions are being carried out in increasingly spectacular style — including with high-caliber artillery — to make an example of those who fall afoul of Kim's monolithic system.
A recent report from the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea contained satellite imagery apparently showing several people standing in front of anti-aircraft machine guns at a military training area 13 miles north of Pyongyang in October last year.
Since coming to power, Kim has ordered a series of reshuffles, purges and apparent executions as a way to consolidate his authority.
Separately, Japanese police arrested the son of North Korea's unofficial ambassador to Japan on Tuesday for allegedly smuggling expensive mushrooms into the country, a sign of the increasing tensions between Tokyo and Pyongyang.
Ho Jong Do, the son of Ho Jong Man, leader of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, was among three people arrested on charges of smuggling about 4,000 pounds of prized matsutake mushrooms into Japan in September 2010, contravening Japanese sanctions. He is accused of shipping the mushrooms, with a declared customs value of about $38,000, into China and then importing them into Japan as Chinese-grown.
Anna Fifield is The Post's bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.
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