North Korea’s military chief, Ri Yong Gil, has been reportedly executed, according to multiple South Korean sources familiar with affairs across the inter-Korean border.
General Ri, who been chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army since 2013, is said to have been accused of committing such offenses as “counterrevolutionary factionalism.”
The same accusation was leveled at Jang Son Thaek, the once-powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, in December 2013 when he was executed as a “traitor.”
Until recently, General Ri had often been mentioned in North Korea’s official media as being among officials who accompanied Kim on various outings and during inspections, ceremonies and performances.
But his name was conspicuously absent in official media reports on a joint meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the military held on Feb. 2-3 and presided over by Kim.
His name was also missing from reports on events held Monday in the capital to celebrate the previous day’s long-range rocket launch, which were attended by leading officials of the party, state and armed forces.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday quoted sources familiar with North Korean affairs as saying Ri was executed last week after being accused of corruption and pursuing personal gains.
It noted that in listing the leaders present at Monday’s celebrations, official media did not mention Ri and instead listed Gen. Ri Myong Su, a former minister of people’s security, in his place, suggesting he may have replaced Ri as chief of the General Staff.
If true, Ri Yong Gil’s death would be the latest in a series of reported executions of leading North Korean officials, in what is seen around the world as an ongoing purge of people deemed by Kim to be a threat to him or disloyal to his regime.
The North’s former defense minister, Hyun Yong Chol, is believed to have been executed early last year for his disloyalty toward Kim.
In December of 2013, Kim had his uncle Jang, once the country’s second most powerful figure, executed for treason. Official media at the time labeled Jang a “traitor” who “perpetrated anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership.”
Information provided by Japan Economic Newswire