PYONGYANG, North Korea - Citing impure behavior, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is said to have purged two top military leaders.
According to South Korean lawmaker Kim Byung Kee, the country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told a closed door briefing that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had punished two key military figures for “impure behaviour,” in a bid to tighten his grip on political power.
the South Korean lawmaker identified the two deposed officials as Vice Marshall Hwang Pyong So and his deputy Kim Won Hong.
Hwang was reportedly the head of North Korea’s General Political Bureau (GPB) and was referred to as the General Political Department (GPD), which is being audited for the first time in 20 years.
The department is responsible for enforcing the political life of North Korea’s 1.1 million-strong military, including the state ideology of Juche and the life and teachings of the Kim family.
So far, it is unclear how the two high ranking officers were punished.
Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul said that the pair likely faced re-education including a period of re-indoctrination in North Korean ideology.
Lankov was quoted as saying, “He’s playing musical chairs with key positions. Kim Jong Un doesn’t want anybody in the military to stay in charge for too long … He’s brilliant, cynical, brutal and efficient.”
According to reports, before his punishment, Hwang was one of three officials below Kim in charge of the armed forces.
Hwang’s department was in charge of making sure soldiers like the defector are properly indoctrinated and never contemplate fleeing.
Through this year, the soldier is the third to have defected from North Korea’s military.
Since taking office in late 2011, Kim has orchestrated a series of high-profile purges, dismissals and executions in what foreign experts say is an attempt to bolster his grip on power and remove anyone seen as a challenge to his leadership.
Lankov said that since Kim took power in 2011, top military leaders are only averaging about one year in their jobs.
He said, “If you look at generals, they are purged and replaced with unprecedented frequency. Once you get some kind of power support base, you are out. If you’re lucky, you are given some job as far away from the military as possible. If you are not lucky, you are just dead.”
The high-level purge comes as a defector who was shot as he crossed the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea, regained consciousness.
The soldier fled his post on the North Korean side of the border and was shot five times as he dashed toward Freedom House on the South Korean side.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the soldier, who hasn’t been identified in media reports so far, had asked to watch television and is being shown South Korean films.
A government official was quoted as saying by the agency, “We believe the most life-threatening moment has now passed.”
South Korea said that the soldier was shot at more than 40 times before reaching safety.
The medical staff has said that the soldier is traumatised from his ordeal.
The government official further told Yonhap, “To provide psychological stability a South Korean flag has been placed hanging on the hospital room wall.”