North Korea allegedly executes its Chief of Staff

Kim Jong Un - Disappearances

North Korea has executed its army chief of staff, Ri Yong Gil, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

If that report checks out it would be just another in a long line of recent executions, purges, and disappearances under the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un.

News of the execution comes at a time when heightened tension in North Korea is being felt as the country tests long-range rockets and conducted a fourth nuclear test.

Ri, who was chief of the Korean People’s Army General Staff, was executed this month for corruption and factional conspiracy, Yonhap and other South Korean media reported.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service declined to comment, and it is not possible to independently verify the report at this time.

When North Korea executes its leaders there is rarely done in a public forum.

Executions that have gone public show the cruel leadership witnessed inside the country. In May last year, the North Korean government executed its defense chief with help from an anti-aircraft gun located at a firing range.

Since taking power from his deceased father in 2011, Kim has changed his armed forces chief several times.

It can be hard to tell what has happened to North Korean officials. Some have disappeared for long stretches of time, only to resurface months later.