Public execution by anti-aircraft gun was the price of perceived disloyalty for North Korea's defense chief, according to South Korea's spy agency. Lawmakers in Seoul say they were told yesterday that military chief Hyon Yong Chol was killed for falling asleep during a military event and for disagreeing with Kim Jong Un, AFP reports. The Seoul lawmakers say the National Intelligence Service informed them that Hyon was killed in front of hundreds of people at a military academy in Pyongyang at the end of April, the AP reports. Hyon was little-known before 2012, when he was promoted after a purge that included the execution of Kim's uncle, reports the BBC.
"Such a public and brutal method of execution as obliteration by anti-aircraft gun would emphasize the cost of disloyalty," writes Stephen Evans at the BBC, noting that while intelligence reports should be "treated with skepticism," it will be easy to verify this one by seeing whether Hyon appears in public again. According to the AFP, Hyon was last seen in public attending a musical performance on April 28, following a trip to Moscow to prepare for Kim's visit to Russia. The visit was called off around the same time Hyon was reportedly executed, and a South Korean analyst tells AFP he suspects botching the Moscow mission may have sealed the military chief's fate. Seoul's spy agency says at least 15 other people have been executed this year for challenging Kim. (Read more North Korea stories.)