South Korean newspapers have uncovered the state execution of high-ranking officials in North Korea in what observers say is part of the continued transition of power following the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011.
Kim Chol, vice minister of North Korea’s military, was executed along with other officials for drinking alcohol during the official state mourning period following Jong Il’s death. Further reports out of South Korea state that new leader Kim Jong Un has also purged a number of military officials for sex scandals, including senior general Ri Yong Ho.
“Contrary to what might be the popular perception that there is a smooth transition going on from the father to the son, these reports show there is still a lot of churn going on inside the system,” Victor Cha, a former Korea specialist on the National Security Council told CNN in October.
“All these actions being taken against the military by [Kim Jong Un] clearly show that they are trying to take some power away from the military, and give it back to [the ruling] party,” Cha said.
In the wake of what appears to be an ongoing power struggle in the North Korean transition of power, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said the U.S. is still uncertain whether Kim Jong Un will follow in his father’s footsteps or lead North Korea in a new direction.