N Korea executes defense chief by anti-aircraft gun for napping

May 13, 2015 12:57
Hyon Yong-chol makes his last public appearance, at an international security conference in Moscow last month. Photo: Reuters

Taking a nap has become a capital offense in North Korea, that is if you are that country's defense chief and its supreme leader is in the room.

North Korea has executed Hyon Yong-chol on treason charges by putting him in front of an anti-aircraft gun at a firing range, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS).

Hyon, 66, who headed the North's military, was purged late last month for disobeying the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, and showing disrespect to him by falling asleep during a meeting at which Kim was present, South Korean lawmakers briefed in a closed-door meeting with the spy agency said.

His execution is the latest in a series of high-level purges since Kim took power in December 2011.

Hyon was believed to have voiced complaints against Kim and had not followed his orders several times, the lawmakers said.

He was arrested late last month and executed three days later without legal proceedings, the NIS said.

Kim, who is in his early 30s, has changed his armed forces chief four times since coming to power.

The spy agency said late last month that Kim ordered the execution of 15 senior officials this year as punishment for challenging his authority.

About 70 officials have been executed since Kim took over the leadership after his father's death, Yonhap news agency cited the NIS as saying.

Meanwhile, CNN reported that a North Korean defector said Kim had his aunt poisoned in May last year.

Kim Kyong-hui had complained angrily for months after her husband, Jang Song-thaek, North Korea's second-most powerful man and her nephew's mentor, was executed in December 2013.

"North Korean internal politics is very volatile these days. Internally, there does not seem to be any respect for Kim Jong-un within the core and middle levels of the North Korean leadership," Reuters quoted Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership, as saying.

"There is no clear or present danger to Kim Jong-un's leadership or stability in North Korea, but if this continues to happen into next year, then we would seriously have to start looking at a contingency plan for the Korean peninsula."

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