It’s not a good idea to cross North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. According to an April 28th report from the Associated Press, South Korean intelligence officials briefed lawmakers on Wednesday that Kim Jong Un has had at least 15 senior government officials executed so far this year. In almost all of the cases, the officials had dared to challenge the authority of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, and they paid the ultimate price.
Of note, there has been no confirmation from North Korea regarding any recent executions.
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Ongoing purges in North Korea
Several South Korean lawmakers have said that National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung Ho told legislators in a closed-door briefing on Wednesday that Kim was likely to visit Russia next month to attend the 70th anniversary of the nation’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Lee did not reveal how the intelligence agency received or confirmed its information.
Since taking over North Korea after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in 2011, Kim has periodically eliminated members of the old guard through a series of purges. One example was the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was found guilty of treason. Analyst point out that Jang was married to Kim Jong Il’s sister and at one time was considered the second most powerful man in the country.
Lee also revealed to lawmakers that a North Korean forestry vice Cabinet minister was executed early this year for questioning Kim’s policies on forestation.
Apparently another North Korean official of similar rank was executed in February for daring to resist Kim’s rather bizarre plans for new building in the shape of a flower named after his grandfather Kim Il Sung.
Lawmakers reported that the intelligence agency also thinks that North Korea used a firing squad to execute four senior members of the well-known Unhasu Orchestra in mid-march of this year on unspecified charges related to espionage.
Members of parliament were also informed the country has not reserved a hotel in Moscow for Kim’s visit, but that the North Korean embassy is large and well-equipped enough to handle a visit to Kim. Political analysts point out this will be Kim’s first overseas trip since taking over in 2011. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is not attending the May 9th celebration in Moscow, but will send a high-level envoy in his place.
Of note, the South Korean intelligece agency has a mixed record of tracking North Korea as information leaking out of the secretive rogue state is typically very difficult to confirm.
The agency did pick up that Jang had been dismissed from his posts before North Korea officially announced his arrest back in late 2013.
The spy agency was heavily criticized, however, when it admitted that it had ignored intelligence warnings suggesting North Korea’s might start shelling a South Korean island back in 2010. The agency has also been lambasted relating to reports that it first learned of the 2011 death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il over two days later when the Pyongyang-based state media announced it.
Statement from South Korean member of parliament
“Excuses or reasoning doesn’t work for Kim Jong-un, and his style of rule is to push through everything,” Shin Kyung-min, a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, said in quoting an intelligence official at the briefing.
North Korean nuclear missile could reach U.S.
In related news, a senior U.S. defense official says that North Korea likely has a ballistic missile system that could theoretically deliver a warhead to North America. ValueWalk reported a couple of weeks ago that U.S. Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, believes North Korea has developed the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads and has a missile system that could deliver a warhead to the U.S.
In a Pentagon press conference, Gortney said rogue state has “the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland.” He noted, however, that he also very confident that our military would be able to shoot the missile down before it could get close to the U.S.