North Korea’s defence minister has been publicly executed with an anti-aircraft gun for falling asleep during military meetings and answering back to leader Kim Jong-Un, it has been claimed.
Hyon Yong-Chol, 66, who was named head of North Korea’s military in 2012, was killed in the capital Pyongyang by the unconventional firing squad on charges of disloyalty and disrespect.
Han Ki-Beom, the deputy director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency (NIS), told a parliamentary committee that hundreds of officials watched the execution in Pyongyang on April 30.
It is not the first time anti-aircraft guns have been used for public executions in North Korea, with recently released satellite images showing a number of unidentified people being killed using the brutal method last October.
Executed: North Korea’s defence minister Hyon Yong-Chol has reportedly been executed by an anti-aircraft gun in Pyongyang after falling asleep during meetings and talking back to leader Kim Jong Un
Sick: Hyon Yong-Chol (right), who was named Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in 2012, had been charged with of disloyalty and disrespect towards North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un (left)
‘Pulverized’: A ZPU-4 anti-aircraft gunis believed to have been used to brutally execute Hyon Yong-Chol
The intelligence service told politicians that Hyon was killed by an anti-aircraft gun at Kang Kon Military Academy – a method cited in various unconfirmed reports as being reserved for senior officials who the leadership wishes to make examples of.
Hyon was apparently caught dozing off during formal military events and also talked back to Kim Jong-Un on several occasions.
Lawmaker Shin Kyoung-min, who attended the parliamentary briefing during which news of the execution was announced, said the NIS believed it to be true.
The execution was initially reported by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, although reports from North Korea are impossible to independently confirm.
Hyon is believed to have been a general since 2010 and served on the committee for late leader Kim Jong-il’s funeral in December 2011, before becoming defence minister.
In North Korea, the defence minister is mainly in charge of logistics and international exchanges.
Policy-making is handled by the powerful National Defence Commission and the party Central Military Commission.
Since taking power upon the death of his dictator father in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has orchestrated a series of purges in apparent efforts to bolster his grip on power.
Analysts are split on whether the bloody power shifts indicate a young leader in firm control, or someone still struggling to establish himself. The most notable purge was in 2013 when he executed his uncle and chief deputy, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason.
Last month, spy officials told lawmakers that North Korea executed 15 senior officials accused of challenging his authority.
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