North Korean Purge Resumes

D-Bo, May 18, 2015, 8:51 a.m.

Purges continue after the reported high-profile execution of Army chief Hyon Yong-chol. A source on Sunday said there are intelligence reports of a small number of follow-up purges that engulfed So Hong-chan, a vice armed forces minister, and other top brass who were close to Hyon. They were either executed or demoted. 

So, who was appointed in November of 2013, always accompanied leader Kim Jong-un to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the embalmed bodies of nation founder Kim Il-sung and former leader Kim Jong-il are displayed. But this April 15 he was absent from the ritual visit, and the last time he was spotted was on a factory visit with Kim in late March.

The source said one reason for the latest purges may be a failure by top brass to follow Kim's order to improve the living conditions of ordinary troops. The source said Kim ordered generals to feed their troops well, but instead they cut daily rations in a bid to boost rice reserves. 

The North's military saw its food reserves for emergencies reduce dramatically after the Workers Party tapped into them to lavish soldiers with gifts on Kim Jong-il's and Kim Il-sung's birthdays on Feb. 16 and April 15 at the order of the young leader. 

Kim Jong-un also gave the order to improve the diet of soldiers, and the military tried to buy Chinese soybean meal to feed troops but could not find enough because it was more expensive than flour, rice and corn.

North Korea watchers say that given the North's feeble economy it would be very difficult to improve the welfare of troops. Top brass probably complained that Kim's order were unrealistic, they added, especially when it meant reducing their own perks. The average tenure of top defense official has been no more than a year since Kim took power.

Meanwhile, the North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri described the South Korean reactions to reports that Hyon was blasted to smithereens with an anti-aircraft gun as "slanderous and provocative," but neither confirmed nor denied his fate. 

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