North Korea Executes Defense Chief Hyon Yong Choi With An Anti-Aircraft Gun In Front Of Hundreds — REPORT

Startling news has come out of one of the most isolated countries in the world. According to intelligence officials with South Korea's National Intelligence Service, North Korea executed its defense chief Hyon Yong Choi. Choi, 66, who was head of the country's military, was reportedly charged with treason for challenging Kim and after he allegedly fell asleep during an event where Kim was present, according to South Korean lawmakers, who were informed about the execution.

The public execution took place at a military school in front of hundreds of people in the capital city Pyongyang, NIS said. Choi was reportedly shot with an anti-aircraft gun at a firing range. When exactly Choi was executed remains unclear, though CNN said he may have been killed around April 30. CNN reported Hyon was last mentioned in an April 29 story by North Korean state media for reportedly attending a performance at the People's Palace of Culture earlier in the week.

Hyon was a loyalist to the Kim family for years and had worked for Kim's father before joining the current regime by replacing Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho as the country's military chief in 2012. Hyon was a mainstay of Kim's government, which is why his graphic execution has come to a surprise to experts. Charles Armstrong, a Korean studies professor at Columbia University, told CNN:

[Hyon] was someone that one would have thought would remain very high up in the regime. So this kind of a shake up, particularly if he's been executed, is quite a remarkable turn of events.

Executions appear to be a common outcome for crossing Kim. Fifteen senior officials have been executed at Kim's order just this year for challenging his authority, Reuters reported citing NIS reports. Korean news agency Yonhap said a total of 70 officials were executed since Kim came into power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011.

North Korean state media in 2013 announced Kim's uncle Jang Song Thaek was shot to death. The North's news agency claimed Jang was executed for "halfheartedly clapping," but the reason was more likely an effort to assert Kim's authority amid older officials who might have looked upon him as young and inexperienced.

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North Korea has yet to confirm Hyon was killed, and there's no word yet what impact his death will have on the country or Kim's regime. But one thing's for sure: At the rate these executions are happening, there will be no one left to help Kim rule.

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