SEOUL, Aug. 30 (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has executed two top officials publicly with an anti-aircraft gun, a source told the South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.
The men — Hwang Min, former agricultural minister, and Ri Yong-jin, a senior official in the education ministry — were executed at a military academy in Pyongyang, the source told the newspaper.
“I have the information that ministers of agriculture and education were publicly executed on a special order from Kim Jong Un,” said the source.
The executions, which have not been confirmed, would be the first ordered by Kim from outside the Workers’ Party and military.
The source said Hwang was executed “because policy proposals he had pushed for were seen as a direct challenge to the Kim Jong Un leadership.”
Hwang had been replaced by Ko In-ho by the parliament in late June.
Ri, according to the source, “incurred the wrath of Kim after he dozed off during a meeting presided over by Kim. He was arrested on site and intensively questioned by the state security ministry. He was executed after other charges such as corruption were found during the probe.”
Intelligence officers from South Korea and other sources estimate that the North Korean leader has purged more than 100 officials — and executed more than 70 — since assuming power in December 2011.
Kim ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song Thaek in 2013. The Korean Central News Agency said the 67-year-old former senior general was a traitor “for all ages.” Jang had been vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission and secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol was executed by firing squad in April 2015 on charges of dozing off during a meeting attended by the supreme leader, South Korean media reported two months later.
Ri Yong Gil, chief of the North Korean Army’s general staff and No. 3 in its hierarchy, was originally reported executed on charges of corruption in February. But he was mentioned in a report published in North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun in May on a roster of officials. Ri was appointed army chief in 2013 but apparently was demoted and spent time in prison.
Won Dong Yon, a senior North Korean official who had gone missing in 2015, was officially appointed director-secretariat of a committee that focuses on inter-Korea relations. Won, who may have been purged in connection to a bribery scandal brought to light after the arrest of Korean Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, was mentioned in an announcement in May from North Korea’s KCNA.
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said Monday that her government will continue to “send a message of hope for North Korean people for the life of liberty and dignity.”
She added, “Improving human rights conditions in North Korea is a humanitarian issue that cannot be put off any more and a cornerstone to bringing about an era of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”