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Norks Execute Defense Minister With Anti-Aircraft Gun

In America, we are embroiled in a debate at the state level over the ethics of how we administer the death penalty—over the issues of whether the cocktail of drugs we use for lethal injection is inhumane. In March, Utah Governor Gary Herbert made headlines and sparked a fierce debate by signing a controversial bill allowing for execution by firing squad.

In North Korea, the government is a little less torn about the matter. According to reports, Pyongyang publicly executed its defense minister last month by firing artillery guns at him in front of a crowd of a few hundred people. The FT reports:

Hyon Yong Chol, 66, had enjoyed a rapid rise under Mr Kim: relatively unknown when he was promoted to vice-marshal in 2012, he became one of Pyongyang’s top officials last year with a ministerial position and a seat on the National Defence Commission, the most powerful organ in North Korea. His name regularly appeared near the top of the list of officials accompanying Mr Kim to public events.

This isn’t the first time in his almost four years as North Korea’s dictator that Kim Jong Un has put on such a show in order to remind everyone who’s in charge. After he came to power in the wake of his father’s death, he executed a number of top officials (and potential challengers), including his uncle’s entire nuclear family. According to some (admittedly unconfirmed and disputed) reports, he had them eaten alive by dogs.

The combination of brutality and publicity is aimed at making the regime look powerful, capable of crushing its enemies and more than willing to do so should the need arise. But as the FT notes, this sort of thing actually communicates the opposite message from the one intended:

The suggestion that Hyon was executed for falling asleep in front of Mr Kim — as well as disobeying orders — echoes the state denunciation of [Kim Jong Un’s uncle] Jang, who was condemned for “halfheartedly clapping” when a new title was bestowed on the supreme leader. […]

“Every time we hear rumours of more executions, we have to wonder whether it’s a sign of authority or an inability to keep things under control,” Victor Cha, a White House adviser on Asia under George W Bush, told the Financial Times last week.

According to at least some former insiders, his moves to inspire fear in his underlings are a product of desperation:

“He’s not being paranoid — from high-level officials to ordinary people, they really don’t respect him,” [said Ahn Myeong-chul, Head of the NGO NK Watch and a former guard at one of North Korea’s infamous gulags].

They’re right. It’s necessarily a sign of strength when a regime pulls publicity stunts like this. Just how fragile is the Kim regime?

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  • f1b0nacc1

    Remember, they have nukes

  • fastrackn1

    Of course few actually respect him. Those who are under him are there because it is about the only way they could get anything out of life for themselves or their families. There are few (and probably none in NK) ways for anyone to have any money, opportunity, or power in a 3rd world country unless they are in government, especially in positions close to the leader. Even a low level police job (which pays very little) at least gives you a bit of power and much opportunity to make side money with bribes, so you can imagine the power, prestige, and opportunity being in a high position or close to Kim Jong Un. I have been to many 3rd world countries and have personally witnessed bribery and corruption first hand.
    So all that being said, Kim Jong Un and those like him know that most or all of those who are beneath them are only there for themselves, not for loyalty or true belief in the system or actions of the leader.
    In my estimation I would say that Kim is trying to tighten control partially out of fear of those within his regime (always present in despot regimes), but also knowing that the executions will instill fear and (perceived) strength in his citizenry.

    In other words; it tough being on top….

  • Dan Greene

    This story is a much better explanation of why Kim failed to go to the Russian Victory Day parade than the absurd “snub” story that TAI and other ran a few days ago.

  • Loader2000

    North Korea aside, the whole squimishness about execution method in the US is ridiculous. If I had to choose the most humane execution myself out of the options available, it would be firing squad, hands down. The electric chair is one of the most horrible ways to die I can think of (certainly the worse if things go wrong) and the fear an uncertainty associated with lethal injection are far worse the 2-5 seconds of pain from bullet in the heart. Most of the time, hanging was an extremely humane form of execution in the sense that almost everyone died instantly (at least in England where they worked it down to a science). So, in short, in a ridiculous effort to make execution seem less traumatic to those watching, we’ve dramatically increased the fear and trauma to most of those experiencing it. Geesh.

    • fastrackn1

      Squimishness about everything in the US is ridiculous. We need to see more blood…it’s healthy. People need to see the bad things (or results of), that happen in life, not have them hidden or swept under the rug.
      What ever happened to the good old days when people were hung in the public square. It lets everyone know what happens if you are an idiot and don’t know how to behave.

      Maybe the guillotine would be the best. It is quick and painless at least…and it would be best to do it publicly, of course.
      Guards!…to the dungeon with him!…off with his head!

      Actually, for certain crimes we shouldn’t be concerned with humane methods…the guilty weren’t concerned with their victims….

    • Albert8184

      The Chinese put the bullet in the back of your neck. Can’t be any pain there, if the shot lands where it’s supposed to land, at the base of the skull.

  • ddh

    This kind of behavior raises the odds that Kim Jong Un will share Caligula’s fate. It can’t happen too soon.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    It always amazes me that idiots like this think they are ruthless. No one is more ruthless than the American fighting man, who kills with an unmatched cold, precise, lethality unseen in the history of mankind.

    • Albert8184

      Yeah. And he does it with both hands tied behind his back and one eye blindfolded by the Progressive Leftists in charge of the West who’ll send him to prison if he pees on a dead soldier or makes a sexist joke in the locker room… and then he goes home and spends the rest of his life with PTSD.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We do have to make allowances for the crazy structure of NK, but any 66-yr-old who actually believes in young Kim as an anointed leader has a screw loose. Presumably all the older people are constantly play-acting around this kid at all times. We should all hope that one of them gets tired of being played as a little puppet and simply shoots him. That would introduce a dangerous instability, of course, but there is nothing remotely stable in the current arrangement. Getting rid of the inherent dynasty thing is step one, isn’t it?

  • Dan

    I think it’s great and we should institute it at home for use on any public official found guilty of corruption in office.

  • jeburke

    Uh, call me contrary, but I think this “they’re really showing weakness” line is a common Western reaction to all sorts of ruthlessness from Putin’s Ukraine rampage to ISIS barbarisms to Kim’s studied brutality. He knocks off not only internal opponents and not only those suspected of opposing him, but also supporters who appear less than totally enthused by him or who are accumulating power that hypothetically could be used against him in the future. Who does this remind you of if not Stalin in the 30s. A leader who purged and judicially murdered old Bolshevics, fellow party leaders, and more or less all of his generals because…well, just because.

    Sometimes ruthlessness works. It did for Kim’s pop and grandpa.

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