July 12, 2015: South Korea says North Korea has officially confirmed the purging of its defense chief two months after Seoul’s spy service said he had been executed for disloyalty to leader Kim Jong Un.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in May that People’s Armed Forces Minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire for talking back to Kim, complaining about his policies and sleeping during a meeting.
The North’s state media has since not mentioned Hyon or his disappearance. But over the weekend, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency named army general Pak Yong Sik as the armed forces minister in a dispatch about a meeting with a Lao military delegation.
The defense minister position is believed to be the second or third most influential military position next to the post of director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, now assumed by Hwang Pyong-so.
Promoted to major general in the army in 1999, Pak Yong Sik climbed up the military ladder quickly to become a four-star general in May and a vice director at the General Political Bureau in April.
South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said Monday (July 12) that this confirms Hyon’s replacement and purging.