North Korea has reportedly executed a top official, Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol, in a most North Korean manner: by shooting him to pieces with an anti-aircraft gun in front of a crowd of hundreds of other officials.
That’s according to South Korea’s intelligence service (NIS), which has a history of exaggerating reports about North Korea that make the country look bad. Indeed, while South Korean lawmakers at first described the NIS as categorically stating that Hyon had definitely been executed, the NIS later told the press that they were certain Hyon had been purged, and that they believed with confidence that he had been executed, but were still working to verify the latter.
In any case, there’s reason to believe this could have actually happened — and that it could speak volumes about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s hold on power.
First, the official story, according to South Korean intelligence: Kim Jong Un allegedly deemed his defense minister, Hyon Yong Chol, disloyal for dozing off during high-level events and for second-guessing Kim’s orders. (You can bet the truth is probably closer to second-guessing, or outright insubordination, than it is to unauthorized napping.) On April 30, Hyon was stood before an anti-aircraft gun — which is essentially a mobile platform of four machine guns large and powerful enough to shoot down an airplane — and executed.