North Korean leader Kim Jong-un killed his defence chief for falling asleep in his presence
North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un took his father Kim Jong-il's brutality one notch higher when he reportedly executed his own defence chief, Hyon Yong-chol, by docking him in front of an antiaircraft gun at a firing range.
The defence chief's fault was he had fallen asleep during an event at which the North Korean leader was present. So a surly Kim thought it best to just put him to sleep.
The development is the latest in a series of high-level purges since Kim took charge.
Yong-chol (66), who headed the isolated nuclear-capable country's military, was charged with treason – including disobeying Kim and falling asleep at an event where Kim was present.
Hundreds of people reportedly watched the execution.
Kim had issued unreasonable orders earlier too. Earlier this year, he ordered the execution of 15 senior officials as punishment for challenging his authority.
In all, nearly 70 officials have been executed since Kim took over after his father's death in 2011.
Jong-un's father, Jong-il, was appointed successor to the North Korean throne two decades before coming to power in 1994, during which time he was able to purge potential political challengers. By contrast, Jong-un has had few years to consolidate power.
In 2013, he executed his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, once considered the second most powerful man in Pyongyang's leadership, for factionalism and committing crimes damaging to the economy, along with a group of officials close to him. Then he purged Jang's wife, his aunt, by poisoning.
Jong-un has changed his armed forces chief four times since coming to power while his father, who ruled for almost two decades, replaced his chief just three times.
The news must come as a wake-up call to neighbouring South Korea – as also to democracies the world over – because an unstable leader at the helm of a nuclear-capable country is not happy tidings for anyone.
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