North Korea said to publicly execute defense minister

North Korea said to publicly execute defense minister
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A top North Korean defense minister was publicly executed by a firing squad using anti-aircraft guns before a crowd of hundreds, according to reports citing South Korean intelligence sources.

The news comes weeks after North Korea executed a group of 15 senior officials, in the latest sign that leader Kim Jong-un is cracking down on his internal ranks. 

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The brutal execution of Hyon Yong-chol — the head of the North Korea’s People’s Armed Forces and the No. 2 military official — came after he was seen falling asleep at a military event where Kim was speaking and refused to carry out Kim’s instructions, a senior intelligence official told the South Korean Yonhap news agency. 

The execution occurred on April 30 but was not revealed to South Korean members of parliament until Wednesday, Yonhap added.

The event would add to a reign of terror that Kim has overseen in the years since he assumed the nation’s leadership following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

In 2013, Kim had his own uncle — Jang Song-thaek, once the nation’s second-most powerful official — arrested in front of a party meeting and executed for treason. That incident was widely interpreted as a show of force by Kim and an attempt to tighten his grip on the unsteady reins of power in Pyongyang.

The newest execution appears to be similarly motivated.

"As key officials have voiced more complaints, Kim has deepened a reign of terror by purging them in negligence of proper procedure," the South Korean intelligence official told Yonhap. "We believe that there are growing doubts about Kim's leadership among North Korean ranking officials."