340 executed during 5-year rule of Kim Jong-un

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340 executed during 5-year rule of Kim Jong-un

In the five years since Kim Jong-un came to power after his father’s death, 340 people across North Korea were executed for political reasons, proof that the young leader used extreme levels of ruthlessness to solidify his control.

Many were killed for not showing the fawning respect Kim demands.

These are some of the findings in a white paper on Kim’s five-year reign published Thursday by the Institute for National Security Strategy, a local think tank under the National Intelligence Service.

According to the 200-page report, Kim executed around 140 high-level government officials since late 2011, including Jang Song-thaek in 2013, his uncle and the second-most powerful man in the regime up until the moment of his arrest.

Nam Jae-joon, then-chief of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, said Jang was found guilty of anti-state crimes and sentenced to death by a military tribunal on Dec. 12, 2013. In the think tank’s report, Jang was described as having “clapped too casually” at a meeting in which Kim participated.

Another top crony that was executed was Hyon Yong-chol, North Korea’s former defense chief, who South Korean intelligence said was executed by firing squad in April 2015 for “dozing off during a meeting” attended by Kim.

Kim Yong-jin, the North’s former cabinet vice minister, was executed last July for “sitting arrogantly in a parliamentary meeting” presided over by the supreme leader.

The frequency of the executions among senior government ranks seem to have grown apace in Kim's first four years, according to the white paper: three people were killed in 2012, 30 in 2013, 40 in 2014 and 60 in 2015.

Only three top officials were killed this year, but the report did not specify the reason of the sudden drop.

Ordinary citizens were not exempt from the brutality: from January to August 2016, roughly 60 people were executed for varying reasons such as illegally watching South Korean movies and dramas smuggled across the border from China, or using drugs or selling them.

The Institute for National Security Strategy did not respond to the Korea JoongAng Daily’s request on Thursday for further information on the number of ordinary people killed from 2011 to 2015, which was not included in the report. It did, however, write that the 60 people killed in the first eight months of this year were “more than twice the average number of people executed in previous years,” which means less than 30 people were finished off annually in the past.

To strengthen his grip, Kim is also suspected to have spent $180 million on the production of some 460 statues of his family, a gesture to glorify the revolutionary feats of not only himself, but also his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il Sung.

For the 29 nuclear experiments and missile launches he ordered over the years, a whopping $300 million is thought to have been used.

On the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, a four-day event in May 2016, the regime allegedly spent more than $1 billion, including an extravagant fireworks display that lit up Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.

“North Korea’s economic downturn is growing worse as it keeps allocating its resources on the glorification of Kim Jong-un’s legacy, which has nothing to do with the livelihoods of ordinary people,” wrote Shin Un, president of the Institute for National Security Strategy. It has “degraded to an extremely poor state,” he wrote.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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