North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has purged his defense minister for dozing off at a rally in the latest removal of a senior official under his rule, a South Korean lawmaker said.
Hyon Yong Chol, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, was captured napping in video footage of the event late last month and South Korean intelligence indicates he may have been executed by firing squad, Shin Kyoung Min of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy party said Wednesday by phone. Shin was citing a briefing by the National Intelligence Service.
“Rumors are rampant in North Korea that he’s been executed,” Shin said. “His crime was lese majeste.” Shin added that Hyon had recently fallen out of favor with Kim for supposed disrespectful behavior.
“The purge shows the extreme steps he has to take to have a complete grip on power,” Oh Gyeong Seob, a North Korea researcher at the Sejong Institute near Seoul, said by phone. “This may hurt the stability of his regime down the line” because the top brass in North Korea may feel threatened by Kim’s brutality, Oh said.
The defense minister is one of the most influential positions in North Korea, along with the chief of general staff and the head of the military’s political bureau. Hyon had been in the role since June last year.