North Korea’s military chief Gen. Ri Yong-gil was executed on charges of corruption, adding to a series of purges of top officials by the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday, citing sources close to the North Korean affairs. Ri, the chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, also faced charges of seeking personal gains, the report added.
The source told Yonhap that Ri was executed last week, close to the time when Kim headed a joint meeting with the country’s ruling Workers' Party and the military Sunday. Ri was appointed to the post in 2013 and until January, he accompanied the North Korean leader on several visits to inspect military exercises and to the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, the country’s defense ministry. However, he was not seen during the joint meeting, when Kim and his officials celebrated the success of the launch of a satellite.
“Ri Yong-gil is known to have been faithful to principles, so it appears the North cited (the charges) to justify his execution,” a source told Yonhap, adding that Ri Myong-su, a former minister of people's security, may have taken the purged minister’s post.
The source also said that Ri Yong-gil might have opposed Kim’s recent appointment of party leaders to military posts.
Kim has been known to execute officials over charges ranging from serious allegations to reasons like watching South Korean TV series and dozing off at a rally. In May, Kim executed his defense minister Hyon Yong Chol because he dozed off at a rally, Bloomberg reported. In January 2015, Kim reportedly executed General Pyon In Son, the head of operations in the army, after he disagreed with the North Korean leader on a topic.
According to reports in 2013, Kim, who came to power in 2011, executed his uncle and one-time deputy Jang Song Thaek over corruption allegations. Kim executed Jang by throwing him into a cage with nearly 120 hungry dogs, reports said.
According to the Bloomberg report, Kim is trying to eliminate any threat to his legitimacy and has questioned even his closest aides. A report by Yonhap last July said that over 70 officials have been executed in North Korea since Kim came to power.