North Korea has been executing corrupt military officials more frequently as pressure from sanctions rise, the commander of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula revealed recently.
“We’re seeing some increase in executions, mostly against political officers who are in military units, for corruption,” General Vincent Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, told The Wall Street Journal, adding that the North Korean regime’s brutal actions “are really about trying to clamp down on as much as possible on something that might be deteriorating and keeping it from deteriorating too quickly.”
North Korea is facing intense pressure from tough international sanctions imposed on the rogue regime for its ballistic missile and nuclear tests. Last year, North Korea tested five previously-unseen missile designs, including two intercontinental ballistic missiles and a staged thermonuclear bomb.
A number of executions and purges were reported in 2017. For instance, Park In-young, a senior defense official in charge of the nuclear test site in North Korea, was reportedly executed in December 2017 for testing delays, a North Korean defector revealed to the Asahi Shimbun. Gen. Hwang Pyong-so, who disappeared in late 2107, is believed to have been executed for corruption, specifically taking bribes.
In the early days of Kim’s reign of terror, he violently executed hundreds of military, party, and government officials, according to former North Korean officials Thae Yong-ho and Ri Jong-ho. The young despots brutality is believed to have been triggered by a crisis of legitimacy as Kim sought to establish himself as the new leader after the death of his father.
The latest round of executions is believed to be a response to rampant problems in the military, although it is difficult to obtain reliable intelligence reports. “We’re seeing defections happening in areas where we don’t generally see them, for example crossing the DMZ,” Brooks told TheWSJ recently, referencing the unusually high number of military defections at the border last year despite an overall decrease in the number of North Korean defectors.
There are also reports that North Korea is scaling back its military exercises as sanctions bite, which suggests a deterioration in readiness. At the same time, there is presently no definitive evidence that North Korea is on the verge of collapse, even if it is under increasing pressure.