A South Korean spy agency has reported that Kim Jong-Un has executed his defense minister. Hyon Yong Chol, a 66 year old experienced member of North Korea’s inner circle, was killed after he fell asleep during a military ceremony. In a vacuum this would certainly not be reason for execution however, this was not the first time Kim Jong-Un felt disrespected.
It had been reported that Hyon overtly disobeyed the dictator on multiple occasions, publicly expressing discontent and even disregarding orders. Looking for any reason to dispense of yet another high-ranking official, nodding off broke the camel’s back, giving Kim Jong-Un the reason he needed for a brutal execution.
Hyon Yong Chol was executed with an anti-aircraft gun powerful enough to disintegrate skin and leave the body unrecognizable. The killing most likely took place on April 30th in Pyongyang.
This was not the first time a high-ranking official has been executed by the supreme leader. Jang Song Thaek, once his uncle and by many counts the second in command, was executed late in 2013. Thaek was Kim Jong-Un’s overseer, but when the young leader felt threatened, he immediately disposed of his mentor citing ‘anti-state’ actions.
According to the NIS, Kim Jong-Un has killed more than 70 high-ranking officials since his ascension to power in 2011. This signifies a larger trend; a trend of instability.
The fact that there is turmoil in the high throws of this regime suggests instability. Instability leads to a loss of control and eventual revolution. Clearly many leaders in North Korea either disagree with Kim Jong-Un, or see him as vulnerable. Lacking the respect his father garnered, the supreme leader is attempting to gain respect through intimidation, however that rarely works.
The third of a diabolical dynasty that has retained power since 1948, the Kim family may be seeing its empire finally crumble from widespread poverty, discontent and the ever-increasing pressures from globalization.
There has been considerable speculation about the state of affairs in North Korea. This ‘extermination’ process as many are dubbing it should be concerning yet promising for the United States.
The United States should be disturbed by this trend for a few reasons. First, while instability can lead to revolution, other less desirable outcomes are certainly not off the table. For one, China has close ties and significant leverage over the Kim family. China has a neocolonialist relationship with North Korea allowing for the imposition of Chinese interests into daily decisions. Chinese intervention, overt or covert, may increase the regime’s resources prolonging its reign and preclude international involvement for fear of crossing China, one of the most powerful countries in the world.
Additionally, no dictator has ever peacefully ceded power to protestors. The direct exertion of authority to quell public discontent is routine in North Korea, meaning any revolution will be excruciatingly bloody.
America must keep a close eye on this developing situation. The execution of Hyon Yong Chol should draw attention to a red flag that went up a while ago. With inconclusive intelligence reports, there is no way of decisively measuring how unstable North Korea truly is. As a product of inadequate information, there is no way to forecast how North Korea will choose to proceed.
The threat of North Korea is its irrationality and unpredictability in the sphere of international relations. If this is the beginning of the end for a North Korean dynasty, the journey towards the dissolution of this autarky is dark and bloody.