N.Korean Vice Defense Chief Executed by Firing Squad

North Korea's vice minister of the People's Armed Forces was among senior officers executed by firing squad early this year for drinking alcohol during the mourning period for former leader Kim Jong-il, it emerged Tuesday.

According to intelligence data submitted to lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un checked on the behavior of senior party, government and military leaders during the mourning period early this year. Kim Chol was executed in January, in an apparent bid to force top military brass into submission.

The purges caught a dozen generals in the powerful military, including a deputy chief of the Army General Staff and the commanding officer of a frontline corps. All of them were accused of drinking liquor during the mourning period or being involved in sex scandals.

So far this year, 14 senior party, government, and military leaders, including army chief Ri Yong-ho and central bank governor Ri Kwang-gon, fell victim to the purges, Yoon said.

"It seems that the purges will continue for the time being, as Kim Jong-un is tightening his grip on power," Yoon said.

It remains to be seen whether the North eminence grise Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-un's uncle, can hold on to his position, Yoon added. He warned there is increasing dissatisfaction among the elite, which could destabilize the regime.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 24, 2012 09:49 KST