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North Korea executes its defence minister: Seoul

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Seoul: North Korea has executed Defence Minister Hyon Yong-chol in a new purge of high ranking officials by Kim Jong-un’s regime, South Korea’s spy agency said on Wednesday.

Hyon was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire on April 30 at a military school in Pyongyang, reported South Korea’s Yonhap news agency citing a spokesperson from the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The 60-year-old army chief was charged with treason for failing to carry out Kim Jong-un’s instructions and for falling asleep during a military parade, said the spokesperson, ruling out the possibility of a move against Kim.

NIS believes Kim has ratcheted up political terror by purging high ranking officials for negligent behaviour, the spokesperson added. This has led to North Korean officials increasingly questioning Kim’s leadership, which has only served to intensify the purge and pace of executions.  Hyon Yong-chol was promoted to head the army in 2010 by Kim Jong-il, father and predecessor of the current leader, and served as defence minister between July 2012 and May 2013.  He was replaced as army chief by Kim Kyok-sik but was reappointed by Kim Jong-un in June 2014 following Kim Kyok-sik’s death. This latest execution of a high ranking official adds to 15 already this year, according to NIS.  At the end of 2013, the North Korean leader ordered the execution of Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and at the time second most powerful person in the regime, also for treason.