A key member of Kim Jong Un's inner circle touted as a powerful military figure mysteriously vanished from public life recently, sparking rumors he was executed by a North Korean death squad after allegations of bribery, recent reports indicated.
Hwang Pyong-so, a vice marshal who held the most senior position in North Korea’s military, hasn’t been seen in public since Oct. 13, sparking rumors of his death.
Kim has previously dispatched his enemies via a variety of gruesome methods, including shooting them with anti-aircraft weaponry at a close distance and feeding them to a pack of ravenous dogs.
News about Hwang’s troubles within Kim’s regime emerged in mid-November, when South Korea’s spy agency reported the top aide and his deputy, Kim Won-hong, were expelled from the military’s General Politico Bureau and “punished,” Yonhap News Agency reported.
A rare inspection on the bureau was conducted after reports of “impure attitude” toward the volatile regime. The spy agency said it was looking into details about their punishment.
“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,” South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo reported, according to the Telegraph.
Kim Won-hong was reportedly sentenced to one of North Korea’s prison camps. As for Hwang, many of Kim Jong Un’s recent actions indicate the man who the dictator has trusted for about a decade was executed -- possibly by the infamous firing squad that also killed Kim’s uncle Jang Song Thaek.
The two officials allegedly had been receiving favors for promotions, the Telegraph reported. Kim ordered the two officials to be punished “as a warning to others.”
Kim’s visit to the country’s Mount Paektu over the weekend hinted at Hwang’s possible execution. Kim usually visits the sacred mountain before he makes a significant decision, much like his father and grandfather had done, Korea Jongang Daily reported.
The leader previously visited the mountain with his aides in November 2013, a month before ordering the deaths of several officials, including Jang, who was branded “worse than a dog” and a “despicable human scum.” The bodies were then lit on fire with flamethrowers.
Kim also made a trip to the mountain before he executed former defense chief Hyon Yong-chol in April 2015.
North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency did not mention Hwang in its statement about Kim’s visit, but said the despot was celebrating his “big achievements in November.”
Hwang rose through the ranks and, in 2014, was named the senior deputy director in the central party, North Korean Leadership Watch reported. South Korean spies believe Kim was pitting Hwang against Choe Ryong-hae, the vice chairman of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, to ensure they were forever loyal to the leader, according to Yonhap News Agency.