According to South Korea’s spy agency, General Hyon Yong-chol, the North Korean defense minister, has been executed for showing disloyalty to Kim Jong-un.
The spy agency has told South Korean parliament that Gen. Hyon Yong-chol was killed on April 30 by anti-aircraft fire in front of an audience of hundreds, the Yonhap news agency reports.
It said Hyon Yong-chol had fallen asleep during an event attended by Kim Jong-un and had not carried out instructions.
Reports from North Korea are impossible to independently confirm.
According to analysis site NK News, Hyon Yong-chol had last appeared in state media a day before the alleged execution date.
Hyon Yong-chol is believed to have been a general since 2010, though little is known about him. He served on the committee for late leader Kim Jong-il’s funeral in December 2011, an indication of his growing influence.
He was appointed defense minister in 2014.
Kim Jong-un has conducted a series of purges of close officials since becoming North Korea’s leader.
The most notable was his uncle, Chang Song-thaek – once North Korea’s second-most powerful figure.
Chang Song-thaek was arrested in December 2013 in front of a party meeting, found guilty of treason and immediately executed. The move was widely seen as the young Kim Jong-un stamping his authority.
According to South Korea’s intelligence, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the execution of 15 people in 2015, including several top officials.
South Korea’s spy agency told a parliamentary meeting on April 29 that they were executed by firing squad on spying charges.
Those killed include two vice ministers who challenged Kim Jong-un over his policies and members of an orchestra, intelligence officials said.
Kim Jong-un purged and executed his once-powerful uncle Chang Song-thaek for treachery in 2013.
South Korean politicians were told that one of the officials killed was a forestry minister who had complained about North Korea’s forestation plan, Yonhap news agency reported.
“Excuses or reasoning doesn’t work for Kim Jong-un, and his style of rule is to push through everything,” said Shin Kyung-min, a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, quoting an intelligence official.
Shin Kyung-min’s office told Reuters news agency that the unnamed official had added that the executions were a “showcase” in response to what Kim Jong-un saw as a challenge to his authority.
Four members of North Korea’s Unhasu Orchestra are also believed to have been executed in March.
Reports say that Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju was a singer in the orchestra before her marriage.
South Korean politician Lee Cheol-woo told Yonhap that the head of the orchestra had been executed, possibly for leaking family secrets.
There has been no confirmation from North Korea about the executions but Kim Jong-un has purged his opponents before.