Reports from South Korean media outlets have suggested Kim Jong-un has executed top North Korean official, Hwang Pyong-So.
Hwang Pyong-so, who was once considered the ‘second most powerful man in North Korea’, has been missing for months with many outside the DPRK believing he has been killed under orders from the Supreme Leader.
A former confidant to Kim Jong-un, Hwang’s disappearance seems to have coincided with the recent purge of the country’s senior military figures in a bid to reduce the growing influence of the army, which flourished under his father Kim Jong-il.
As well as being seen as the second most powerful man in the DPRK and at the core of Kim’s inner circle, he was head of the military’s powerful General Political Bureau.
However the relationship had since soured after allegations of bribery, which lead to Hwang and his deputy Kim Won-hong to be removed from the Workers’ Party Central Committee, with the former being sent to a prison camp. Hwang himself hasn’t been seen in public since 13th October of this year.
According to the South Korean newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo:
If Hwang was indeed kicked out of the Workers’ Party, it would practically mean the end of his political career, and possibly his life, though it is unknown whether or not he is still alive
News of his possible death first emerged in November via South Korea’s intelligence agency, NIS. According to their reports, Hwang and Kim (Won-hong) were subjected to an impromptu inspection of the army’s politburo following suspicions of an ‘impure attitude’ towards the current regime.
An unnamed source told the South Korean newspaper that the two had been receiving backhanded bribes in exchange for promotions, when news of this reached Kim Jong-un he demanded the two be punished in order to set an example.
Speaking AFP, Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies said:
This is another Kim Jong-Un play aimed at tightening his grip on, and taming, the military…
… reaffirming the principle that the party is always above the military
While the fate of both men is unknown, due to North Korea’s secretive regime, a scenario considered likely is they have suffered the same fate as Kim Jong-un’s uncle who was arrested and executed in 2013 for ‘anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts’.