Reports: North Korea publicly executes defense chief

Updated 10:22 PM EDT, Tue May 12, 2015
A file photo shows Hyon Yong Chol giving a speech at a national meeting in Pyongyang on December 29, 2012.
Kyodo/AP
A file photo shows Hyon Yong Chol giving a speech at a national meeting in Pyongyang on December 29, 2012.

Story highlights

North Korean Defense Chief shot by anti-aircraft gun, South Korean media reports

Hyon Yong Chol executed because he was seen "dozing off" at a military event

North Korean official told CNN last week reports of 15 executions of top officials "malicious slander"

Seoul, South Korea CNN —  

North Korea has publicly executed the country’s defense minister after the regime accused him of treason, according to reports from South Korea on Tuesday.

Hyon Yong Chol was killed by fire from an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in front of hundreds of people in Pyongyang, the South Korean Intelligence Service (NIS) was reported to have told parliament members in a closed door session.

Hyon “was purged for lese majeste” because he was seen “dozing off” during a military event and “did not carry out Kim’s instructions,” the agency said. It wasn’t clear what instructions Hyon failed to carry out.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been accused of ordering the executions of as many as 15 top officials so far this year. However, during a rare trip by CNN to Pyongyang last week, a top official dismissed the allegation as “malicious slander.”

However, during a rare trip to Pyongyang last week, a top official dismissed the allegation as “malicious slander.”

“Especially because they tried to link the alleged statement to the august name of our Supreme Leader Marshall Kim Jong Un,” said Park Yong Chol, the deputy director of the DPRK Institute for Research into National Reunification.

However, he did not deny that executions take place for crimes of treason or subversion: “It is very normal for any country to go after hostile elements and punish them and execute them.”

CNN cannot independently confirm the execution claims as North Korea is one of the most closed societies in the world.