Kim’s shocking reign of terror
North Korea executed its defense chief on April 30 via a firing squad with an anti-aircraft gun, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said. He was likely charged with treason and for disrespecting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Four-star General Hyong Yong-chol appeared to have dozed off during an event over which the young leader was presiding. He was publicly executed at a military academy in front of hundreds of senior military officials, Seoul’s spy agency told lawmakers and press, citing multiple intelligence sources. Hyong had reportedly complained about Kim’s governing style, disobeyed his orders and was negligent in his duties. Falling asleep in the meeting likely sealed his fate.
Kim, who took power following his father’s death in 2011, stunned the world in December 2013, when news broke that he had executed his uncle, Jang Song-taek, the second-highest ranking man in the country, on charges of treason.
Such a ruthless display is unfathomable in modern society and underscores that the young leader is desperately holding on to power through the use of force and fear. The NIS estimates that more than 70 senior officials, including 15 high-ranking men, have been executed over the last three years Kim has been in control.
This kind of terror is typical of dictatorships. Resorting to shock and terror becomes more frequent when the legitimacy of their power and their authority base is weak or threatened. Kim made his sudden ascent before he was even 30 years old, after the abrupt death of his father Kim Jong-il. But such ruthlessness demonstrates a weakness in power.
North Korea has not commented on the execution. But from his track record, it is certain that Kim is trying to assert his power and hold over the military through intimidation. Blood leads to blood.
History is a living testimony to the eventual doom of terror in politics. We must be fully aware of the kind of unstable leader we are dealing with and be ready for any sort of unexpected developments in North Korea.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 14, Page 34