North Korea executes defense chief on treason charges: South Korean media

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North Korea executes defense chief on treason charges: South Korean media
Vice Marshal Hyon Yong Chol applauds during a meeting at the April 25 House of Culture announcing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's new title of marshal, Wednesday, July 18, 2012, in Pyongyang, North Korea. The decision to award the top title to Kim, who already serves as supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, was made Tuesday by the nation’s military, government and political leadership, state media said in a special bulletin. The move solidifying his standing comes seven months into Kim’s rule. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)
A man watches a TV news program reporting that People's Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his defense chief for sleeping during a meeting and talking back to the young leader, South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers Wednesday, citing what it called credible information. The part of letters on the bottom "Pyongyang, executed by anti-aircraft gunfire." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A man watches a TV news program reporting that North Korean People's Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his defense chief for sleeping during a meeting and talking back to the young leader, South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers Wednesday, citing what it called credible information. The part of letters on the bottom "National Intelligence Service, North Korea's People's Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean men pass by a TV news program showing images published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korea's ballistic missile believed to have been launched from underwater and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 9, 2015. North Korea said Saturday it has successfully test-fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine in what would be the latest display of the country's advancing military capability. The letters on the screen read "The missile believed to have been launched from underwater near Sinpo". (AP Photo/Ahn Young-oon)
South Korean protesters shout slogans as they hold the photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center and right, the late leaders Kim Jong Il, second from left, and Kim Il Sung, left, during a rally denouncing the attack on U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert and demanding the alliance between South Korea and the United States, in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Lippert was in stable condition after a man screaming demands for a unified North and South Korea slashed him on the face and wrist with a knife, South Korean police and U.S. officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A man watches a TV news program showing that North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper front-pages a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, on-site to watch the testing of a new missile, at Seoul train station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. North Korea said Saturday that it has test-fired a new anti-ship cruise missile, a move experts in Seoul viewed as an attempt to raise tensions ahead of joint military drills between the United States and South Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean media reports N. Korea's defense minister executed in front of hundreds of people http://t.co/wP6uD07MJz http://t.co/P6ndZ5xa90
North Korea executes Defence Minister Hyon Yong-chol, South Korean spy agency says http://t.co/2n2e1blOpP http://t.co/Hswt6KTyJe
North Korea executes defence chief for napping at military event: South Korean media http://t.co/RIUnphpSKw http://t.co/Du0gDog6re
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North Korea has executed its defense chief on treason charges, Seoul's National Intelligence Service was quoted as telling lawmakers, in the latest of a series of high-level purges since Kim Jong Un took power after his father's death in 2011.

Hyon Yong Chol, who heads the isolated country's military, was purged and then executed by firing squad with an antiaircraft gun, watched by hundreds of people, South Korean media reported on Wednesday, citing the NIS's comments to a parliamentary panel.

Hyon, who spoke at a security conference in Moscow in April, was said to have shown disrespect to Kim by dozing off at a military event, media said, citing the agency briefing.

The execution comes after South Korea's spy agency said late last month that Kim ordered the execution of 15 senior officials this year as punishment for challenging his authority.

North Korea Sub Missile Would Add to Threats, If Confirmed

"North Korean internal politics is very volatile these days," said Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership and contributor to the 38 North think tank.

"Internally, there does not seem to be any respect for Kim Jong Un within the core and middle levels of the North Korean leadership," he added.

"There is no clear or present danger to Kim Jong Un's leadership or stability in North Korea, but if this continues to happen into next year, then we would seriously have to start looking at a contingency plan for the Korean peninsula".

In 2013, Kim purged and executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, once considered the second most powerful man in Pyongyang's leadership circle, for corruption and committing crimes damaging to the economy, along with a group of officials close to him.

Pyongyang's military leadership has been in a state of perpetual reshuffle since Kim took power.

Hyon, a little-known general, was promoted to the rank of vice marshal of the North Korean army in 2012.

The South Korean spy agency told lawmakers that Ma Won Chun, known as North Korea's chief architect of new infrastructure under Kim, was also purged, local media reported.

(Editing by Tony Munroe, Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez)

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