Sharing the family name doesn’t mean one can be spared Kim Jong Un’s ruthless governing tactics. Among the recent victims of the North Korean dictator’s purges was Kim Kyong Hui, his aunt, who was reportedly poisoned last year at the behest of her 32-year-old nephew after she grumbled for months about the death of her husband, Jang Song Thaek. Jang was executed in December 2013, CNN notes.
Kim Jong Un has overseen the brutal executions of dozens of people considered threats to his authority. His execution sprees are thought to be aimed at silencing anyone who speaks out against the regime or its leader.
At least 68 high-ranking officials have been publicly executed for criticizing Kim since he assumed power in 2011 following his father Kim Jong Il’s death, according to South Korean intelligence. Many of them faced extreme brutality, including being forced to stare down the barrel of an anti-aircraft machine gun. One senior official was apparently burned alive by a flamethrower, according to Mirror Online. Another was targeted by a mortar round.
Kim Kyong Hui’s death occurred in early May 2014, a senior North Korean defector told CNN. She mysteriously disappeared from public view in September 2013, fueling months of speculation surrounding her whereabouts.
"North Korea is currently carrying out a reign of terror, undertaking a large-scale purge in order to strengthen Kim Jong Un's power," South Korean President Park Geun-hye told a Cabinet meeting in December 2013. Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Kim’s tactics, and the United Nations has sought to have him brought before an international court for crimes against humanity.
Kim’s purges include 33 people being executed in March 2014 for conspiring to build underground churches in North Korea, which represses religion.