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North Korea confirms execution of defence chief by anti-aircraft gun

Ruthless: Kim Jong Un has overseen a series of executions
Ruthless: Kim Jong Un has overseen a series of executions

North Korea has officially confirmed the purging of its defence chief two months after Seoul's spy service said he had been executed for disloyalty to leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service told MPs in May that people's armed forces minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire for talking back to Kim, complaining about his policies and sleeping during a meeting.

The North's state media has since not mentioned Mr Hyon or his disappearance. But over the weekend, the country's official Korean Central News Agency named army general Pak Yong Sik as the armed forces minister in a dispatch about a meeting with a Lao military delegation.

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee told reporters today that this confirmed Mr Hyon's replacement and purging.

Since taking power upon the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in December 2011, Kim has orchestrated a series of executions, purgings and personnel reshuffles in what outside analysts say is an attempt to bolster his grip on power.

Some experts say repeated bloody power shifts indicate the young leader is still struggling to establish himself.

South Korean officials say 70 North Korean officials have been executed since Kim's inauguration.

The most notable execution before Mr Hyon's happened in 2013 when Kim had his uncle and number two, Jang Song Thaek, executed for alleged treason.

Gen Pak, known as a top official at the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, is considered one of Kim's closest associates and is among the officials who have accompanied Kim on various public activities mentioned in state media.