Kim Jong-Un May Have Killed The Second Most Powerful Man In North Korea
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It is thought that another of Kim Jong Un's top aides, General Hwang Pyong-so, has been executed, having not been seen since early October.
Once at the heart of Kim's inner circle within the Korean Workers' Party Central Committee - he also held the most senior military position after the supreme commander - Hwang has been dubbed by many the second most powerful man in North Korea.
But he reportedly fell out with Kim amid allegations of bribery, and is believed to have been expelled from the party. His deputy, Kim Won-hong, was also banished to prison camp.
"If Hwang was indeed kicked out of the Workers' Party, it would practically mean the end of his political career, and possibly his life, though it is unknown whether or not he is still alive," the South Korean daily newspaper JoongAng Ilbo had reported.
Hwang made his last public appearance back in early October, having been seen at a gymnastics gala. News of his political demise first emerged in November, during a parliamentary briefing by South Korea's intelligence body, the NIS. However, it is difficult to know the specifics of what has happened, as North Korea remains a great enigma.
Now, though, it is thought that Kim decided to execute Hwang during a trip to Mount Paektu, the Telegraph reports. The mountain holds massive mythical importance to the ruling dynasty, and because of that, many North Koreans have been speculating about the significance of Kim's most recent visit to Mount Paektu last Friday.
Any indication of disobedience by North Korean officials - or even its citizens - is usually dealt with very seriously, and even death isn't out of the question. Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was removed from all of his posts after allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling and leading a 'dissolute and depraved life', before eventually being executed in 2013.
Kim Jong Nam, the dictator's exiled half-brother, also died earlier this year in Malaysia after a chemical attack.
"This is another Kim Jong-Un play aimed at tightening his grip on, and taming, the military," Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.
Professor Koh Yu-Hwan at Dongguk University has also said: "The Songun policy has always been a double-edged sword and Kim is reorganising the military that became overgrown under his father and is restoring the system of party dominance."