North Korea reportedly executes two top officials with anti-aircraft guns

North Korea publicly executed two top officials earlier this month by shooting them with anti-aircraft guns, a South Korean newspaper reported Tuesday.

The JoongAng Ilbo identified the murdered officials as former agriculture minister Hwang Min and senior education ministry official Ri Yong Jin. According to Reuters, Hwang was identified by North Korea's state-run media as an agriculture minister in 2012 and a vice minister of agriculture in 2014.

Due to the North Korean state's secretive nature, reports of executions and other government purges are difficult to confirm. This past May, a former North Korean general believed executed was revealed to still be alive, in an embarrassing moment for South Korean intelligence.

There was no immediate comment from the South Korean government regarding Tuesday's report.

However, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un reportedly has carried out a series of killings, purges and dismissals since he took power in late 2011, part of what foreign experts call an attempt to tighten his grip on power.

JoongAng Ilbo reported that Hwang was killed because his policy proposals were seen as a challenge to Kim, while Ri was accused of nodding off during a meeting with the dictator as well as corruption.

Last year, South Korean intelligence reported that former North Korean defense chief Hyon Yong Chol was also executed by anti-aircraft fire for also falling asleep during a meeting and talking back to Kim.

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