North Korea executes army chief of staff: South Korean media

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
North Korea 'Executes' Army Chief, Seoul Reports

SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korea has executed its army chief of staff, Ri Yong Gil, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, which, if true, would be the latest in a series of executions, purges and disappearances under its young leader.

The news comes amid heightened tension surrounding isolated North Korea after its Sunday launch of a long-range rocket, which came about a month after it drew international condemnation for conducting its fourth nuclear test.

SEE ALSO: The details in the US Justice Department's lawsuit against Ferguson are harrowing

A source familiar with North Korean affairs also told Reuters that Ri had been executed. The source declined to be identified, given the sensitivity of the matter.

Ri, who was chief of the Korean People's Army (KPA) General Staff, was executed this month for corruption and factional conspiracy, Yonhap and other South Korean media reported.

Yonhap did not identify its sources. The source who told Reuters the news declined to comment on how the information about the execution had been obtained.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service declined to comment and it was not possible to independently verify the report.

RELATED: 15 facts about Kim Jong Un

16 PHOTOS
15 facts about Kim Jong Un
See Gallery
North Korea executes army chief of staff: South Korean media

1) Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 -- 1982, 1983, or 1984.

His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.

(Photo: DPRK propaganda via http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NG14Dg02.html)

2) Jong Un -- here with his mother -- lived at home as a child.

During this period, North Korea was ruled by "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. While Jong Il was the heir apparent, Jong Un's path to command was far less certain.

(DPRK propaganda via http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NG14Dg02.html)

3) Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

Called "Pak Un" and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.

4) Jong Un loved basketball and idolized Michael Jordan.

The young Korean reportedly had posters of Jordan all over his walls during his Swiss school days. Although Jong Un was overweight and only 5-6, he was a decent basketball player.

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

5) After school in Switzerland, he returned home for military schooling.

Upon his return to North Korea, Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother. Some reports say they started to attend their father's military field inspections around 2007.

(Photo by Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

6) Jong Un has a theme song known as "Footsteps."

"Footsteps" looks and sounds like a propaganda song from the Soviet Union.

7) Many North Koreans see Jong Un as a youthful version of "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung.

Kim bears a clear resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in appearance, haircut, and mannerisms.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

8) After his father died, Jong Un was quickly declared "Supreme Leader" of North Korea.

When Jong Il died of a heart attack on December 17, 2011, the young Jong Un inherited the world's fourth-largest military, a nuclear arsenal, and absolute control over North Korea.

(AP Photo/NHK)

9) Some originally believed that Jong Un's aunt and uncle were actually calling the shots.

Among Jong Un's most trusted advisers were his aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Sung Taek, both 66. The couple was reportedly ordered by Jong Il to control the country's military and help the young leader consolidate his position while he gains more experience.

(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

10) But at the end of December 2013, Jong Un had his uncle and his uncle's family executed, apparently in a bid to stop a coup against his rule.

11) He's married to a former cheerleader and may have two kids.

North Korean media revealed in July that he was married to Ri Sol Ju -- a former cheerleader and singer -- but no one knows exactly when they were married, according to NBC News.

(AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, File)

12) Jong Un lived out a childhood fantasy when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman visited.

Everyone in the family is apparently a huge Chicago Bulls fans.

(Photo courtesy of VICE)

13) But recently, things haven't been going so well.

In 2013 he was reportedly the target of an assassination attempt. South Korean intelligence believes the young leader was targeted by "disgruntled people inside the North" after he demoted a four-star general, which resulted in a power struggle.

(Photo courtesy: DPRK)

14) Jong Un has continued to be belligerent with South Korea and the West throughout his rule in hopes of bolstering his authority.

North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles and nuclear devices under Jong Un's rule, despite the threat of sanctions. In 2012, the country launched its first satellite into space. And since Jong Un has taken over, the country has continued to push ahead with its construction of ballistic and nuclear weapons.

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

15) Jong Un's belligerence reached a peak in 2016.

On January 5, North Korea conducted its fourth-ever nuclear test and its second under Jong Un. Pyongyang claims the test was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The North rarely issues public announcement related to purges or executions of high-level officials.

A rare official confirmation of a high-profile execution came after Jang Song Thaek, leader Kim Jong Un's uncle and the man who was once considered the second most powerful figure in the country, was executed for corruption in 2013.

In May last year, the North executed its defense chief by anti-aircraft gun at a firing range, the South's spy agency said in a report to members of parliament.

The North's military leadership has been in a state of perpetual reshuffle since Kim Jong Un took power after the death of his father in 2011. He has changed his armed forces chief several times since then.

Some other high-ranking officials in the North have been absent from public view for extended periods, fueling speculation they may have been purged or removed, only to resurface.

More from AOL.com:
'New Jim Crow' author: 'Hillary Clinton doesn't deserve the black vote'
Donald Trump trolled at rally by man standing behind him with bizarre 'steak' sign
FBI tightens grip on final occupiers at Oregon wildlife refuge

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners