Kim Jong Un executes army general in latest purge of officials

A photo provided by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, on March 29, 2013, signing an order putting rockets on standby after an urgent meeting with top generals.


By SAM KIM | Bloomberg News | Published: February 4, 2015

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed an army general last month in his latest purge of senior officials.

General Pyon In Son, head of operations in the Korean People's Army, was killed for expressing an opinion different to that of Kim, a South Korean official told reporters in Seoul on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity as per government policy. The official didn't say what they disagreed on.

Kim still mistrusts the military, the official said, adding that senior officers are growing increasingly uneasy. The "Supreme Leader" also removed Ma Won Chun, a National Defense Commission official overseeing construction design, from office in November for alleged corruption and a failure to follow orders.

Kim has relied on purges to consolidate his grip on power since he took over a country with a nuclear arms program and 1.2 million troops in 2011. After killing his uncle and one-time deputy Jang Song Thaek in 2013, he executed about 50 officials last year on charges ranging from graft to watching South Korean soap operas.

"The purge of Pyon sends a message that helps to discipline the military," said Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. "The execution is a symbol that will help tighten loyalty."

Pyon was promoted to a four-star general in March last year and then removed from office in November, according to the North Korea Leadership Watch blog. South Korea's Unification Ministry's website still identifies him as a general who oversees military operations.

Kim's younger sister Kim Yo Jong may be married and even pregnant, the official said, saying she has a ring on her finger and has recently been seen wearing comfortable shoes in public.

Yonhap News said on Jan. 2 that she married one of party secretary Choe Ryong Hae's sons, citing two unidentified people in China. The official said it's unlikely she wed Choe's son because that would concentrate too much power in Choe.

Earlier Wednesday, North Korea said it wouldn't agree to talks with the U.S. and is now focused on its ability to destroy the country with conventional, nuclear and cyber-warfare attacks.

Kim's regime accused the U.S. of "inching closer to the stage of igniting a war of aggression" by stepping up its sanctions, holding military drills with South Korea and predicting the future collapse of the administration, the official Korean Central News Agency said, citing a statement from the National Defense Commission.