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A North Korean army minister was executed with a mortar round for reportedly drinking and carousing during the official mourning period after Kim Jong-il’s death.Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was taken into custody earlier this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed the leadership after the death of his father in December.
On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair,” according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and “obliterated.”
The execution of Kim Chol is just one example of a purge of members of the North Korean military or party who threatened the fledgling regime of Kim Jong-un.
So far this year, 14 senior officials have fallen victim to the purges, according to intelligence data provided to Yoon Sang-hyun, a member of the South Korean Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.
Those that have fallen from favour include Ri Yong-ho, the head of the army and Ri Kwang-gon, the governor of the North Korean central bank.
Analysts suggest that Mr Kim, who took over as head of state after the death of his father late last year, is acting to consolidate his own power base and deter any criticism of his youthfulness and inexperience. Mr Kim is believed to be either 28 or 29.
“When Kim Jong-un became North Korean leader following the mourning period for his father in late December, high-ranking military officers started disappearing,” a source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. “From information compiled over the last month, we have concluded that dozens of military officers were purged.”
It also appears that Mr Kim ordered his loyal officials to use the excuse of misbehaviour during the mourning period for his father to remove any potential opponents.
Other officials have been executed by firing squads, including Ryu Kyong, a senior intelligence expert.
Since being elevated to second-in-command of the nation by his father in September 2010, Kim has reportedly been behind the dismissal of at least 31 senior officials.