Kim Jong Un Ordering Executions While Drunk?

Kim Jong Un seems to share his father's taste for alcohol.

Kim Jong Un

The execution of Jang Soong-thaek, Uncle of North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-Un, longtime member of the Kim family inner circle, and quite arguably the second most powerful person in the DPRK next to Kim himself, has led many to wonder what exactly is going on inside that country. Was Jang involved in some kind of attempted coup, or otherwise threatening Kim’s hold on power as the country’s official news agency’s press release seemed to suggest? Was it an effort by Kim to send some kind of message to the Chinese by getting rid of the person who was essentially their chief contact in the North Korean government as some “experts” have suggested? Was it a sign that Jang had outlived his usefulness to Kim as a bridge to the military and party leadership and thus had to be removed to make sure he didn’t become a rival for power? There seems to be enough evidence available to outside observers to support any of these theories, but now there’s a new one, namely that Kim ordered the executions when he was completely hammered, at least when he ordered the death of two of Jang’s closest aides:

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “very drunk” when he ordered the recent execution of two aides close to his uncle Jang Song-thaek, reports say.

According to the Japanese newspaperYomiuri Shimbun, the pair questioned an order from the dictator to hand over control of a business to the military. Sources told the newspaper Kim was “upset” when they said they needed to check with “Director Jang” first.

The leader’s uncle, who was removed from power and killed as part of a recent high-profile purge, was head of the ruling Workers’ Party administrative department.

His close aides, first deputy director Ri Ryong-ha and another deputy Jang Su-gil, were among the first prominent figures to be executed in late November.

According the Yomiuri’s source, Kim was “very drunk” when he ordered they be killed.

The paper said that it was intelligence from the first two deaths that made the South Korean government aware Jang’s own execution was “inevitable”. “Those who were close [to the two aides] were surprised by their execution, and made phone calls to their friends living abroad, and the South Korean government [spy agency] wiretapped their phone conversations,2 the newspaper said.

In all, at least eight people from Jang’s circle were executed in the purge – alongside the director himself.

While he was alive, it was fairly common knowledge that Kim’s father Kim Jong Il had a taste for all kinds of expensive Western goods, including top shelf liquor and champagne, so it’s not too surprising to learn that this may have been passed down from father to son. All the same, the idea of a guy with nuclear weapons who has unlimited control of a nation with at least a handful of nuclear weapons is, to say the very least, quite concerning.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Add anyone remotely related to Jang, et al. NK’s policy of guilt by association means many friends and family were also dragged off. One pines for the day when we have grainy footage of the gates of NK gulags being opened, and summarily razed.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    See, this is why it’s better to have crazy Iranian Mullahs with the bomb as opposed to crazy Korean dictators: Muslims don’t drink.

  3. JWH says:

    @michael reynolds: Not sure I agree with you on that. I gotta mullah it over.

  4. rudderpedals says:

    @JWH: Perhaps with a djinn and tonic?

  5. RockThisTown says:

    Jang was executed perhaps b/c he was having more fun than Kim Jong-Un – something that cannot be tolerated. The Grand Pooh-ba must have more fun than anyone else in the regime or there will be a price to pay!

  6. Lounsbury says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Re Drinking: You’ve clearly never lived and worked for extensive periods of time in the MENA region, else you’d not write such nonsense – even as a joke.

    Of course the Iranian Mullahs have shown themselves to be quite rational in the end, having (comparative to NK) a rather healthier system.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    A drunk tyrant is much more dangerous than a sober one.

  8. James Pearce says:

    I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end for the North Korean experiment.

    The tale of Jang’s aides is ludicrous. They were executed with anti-aircraft guns. They probably scooped them up with shovels and buckets.

    And the whole thing was about a dispute over fishing grounds. From the Times:

    North Korean military forces were deployed to retake control of one of the sources of those exports, the rich crab and clam fishing grounds that Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the country’s untested, 30-year-old leader, had seized from the military. In the battle for control of the fishing grounds, the emaciated, poorly trained North Korean forces “were beaten — very badly — by Uncle Jang’s loyalists,” according to one official.

    The beginning of the end? Man, let’s hope so.

  9. steve s says:

    They were executed with anti-aircraft guns

    hmmmmmmmm. Nope. Still not as cool as executing that one dude with a mortar.

  10. michael reynolds says:


    You are correct. Had a chance to do Dubai for a literary thing but decided to blow it off once I came face-to-face with flight times and my lack of desire to do yet another dog and pony show.

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Sadly, based both on his relative youth and this article, Kim can be expected to have a longer natural life than the mullahs…

  12. Woody says:

    Ahhhh, monarchy. The House of Kim is a real-time example of the ancient Mandate of Heaven.

    What do you suppose is his tipple of choice? Boilermakers? Daiquiris? Are there top-secret shipments of Zima heading into Pyongyang under heavy security?

  13. JohnMcC says:

    According to Henry Kissinger’s tape recorded conversation during the ’73 Yom Kippur War, Nixon was too drunk to take the call of PM Donald Healey from London. Hope it doesn’t denigrate Mr Kim to compare him to a notorious criminal like Pres Nixon.

  14. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: If I had the choice I’d rather be executed via anti-aircraft rounds as it’d be a much quicker death.