North Korea officially confirmed the public execution of its Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol, according to a South Korean official on Monday. The North Korean government accused Hyon of treason.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported that North Korea killed Hyon using an anti-aircraft gunfire in front of hundreds of people at a military school in Pyongyang in May.
North Korea killed Hyon because of his failure to follow the orders of the Kim Jong-un, sleeping during meetings and military parades. He also expressed discontent towards the policies of the country’s supreme leader.
Hyon was elected to the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly in 2009. Last year, he became a member of the National Defense Commission, which has the authority over the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces and Ministry of People’s Security.
Charles Armstrong, a professor of Korean studies at Columbia University described Hyon as a “survivor” and a “very high profile military man.” He said Hyon’s execution was a “big deal.”
North Korea names Pak Yong Sik as Defense Minister
Nort Korea’s Central News Agency mentioned Army General Pak Yong Sik as Defense Minister in its report regarding a meeting with a military delegation from Laos over the weekend.
Jeon Joon-Hee, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry in South Korea commented that the report regarding Hyon’s replacement confirmed his expulsion and execution.
Kim Jong-un purged and executed some officials since becoming the supreme leader of North Korea after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December 2011. Political analysts believed that Kim Jong-un is using the executions to tighten his grip on power as he is still struggling to establish himself as a strong supreme leader.
South Korean officials said Kim Jong-un executed approximately 70 North Korean government officials since becoming the supreme leader of his country. In 2013, he executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek for allegedly plotting a military coup and disrespecting Kim Jong-un during a military parade by clapping unenthusiastically. Jang was considered the second most powerful man in North Korea
Kim Dong-yup, an analyst at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul previously explained that executions are part of the everyday life in North Korea. According to him, “What’s happening in North Korea is extremely abnormal by our standards, but we also need to see the reign of terror not simply as a dictator raving mad, but rather as his carefully calculated choice.”
North Korea warns stern action against South Korea
Separately, North Korea said it would send officials to the neutral village of Panmunjom to meet with their South Korean counterparts regarding the repatriation of five North Korean fishermen.
North Korea demanded South Korea to repatriate the five fishermen who were found and rescued from a vessel with an engine failure on July 4. South Korea said it would send the two fishermen who expressed their desire to return home. The three fishermen do not want to return to North Korea.
North Korea threatened to take stern actions against South Korea if its refuses to repatriate the five fishermen. Pyongyang also asked Seoul to reveal the identities of the fishermen who want to abandon their country.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry reiterated its position that it cannot accept North Korea’s demand for a family meeting with the three North Korean fishermen who expressed their desire to stay in the South.
“We notified the North that Seoul will repatriate the two sailors on Tuesday at the truce village,” according to the Unification Ministry. Seoul sent back five North Korean fishermen on humanitarian grounds in June.