North Korean Minister Executed By Mortar Shell

Just in case you were wondering if the new leader of North Korea was any better than his Father and Grandfather, the answer would be no:

A North Korean army minister was executed with a mortar round for reportedly drinking and carousing during the official mourning period after Kim Jong-il’s death.

Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was taken into custody earlier this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed the leadership after the death of his father in December.

On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair,” according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and “obliterated.”

The execution of Kim Chol is just one example of a purge of members of the North Korean military or party who threatened the fledgling regime of Kim Jong-un.

So far this year, 14 senior officials have fallen victim to the purges, according to intelligence data provided to Yoon Sang-hyun, a member of the South Korean Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.


Analysts suggest that Mr Kim, who took over as head of state after the death of his father late last year, is acting to consolidate his own power base and deter any criticism of his youthfulness and inexperience. Mr Kim is believed to be either 28 or 29.

“When Kim Jong-un became North Korean leader following the mourning period for his father in late December, high-ranking military officers started disappearing,” a source told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. “From information compiled over the last month, we have concluded that dozens of military officers were purged.”

It also appears that Mr Kim ordered his loyal officials to use the excuse of misbehaviour during the mourning period for his father to remove any potential opponents.

The amount of blind loyalty it takes to carry out orders like this is quite terrifying actually.

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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. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The amount of blind loyalty it takes to carry out orders like this is quite terrifying actually.

    Why would it take terrifying amounts of blind loyalty to carry this out?

    Not sure what the difference is between pushing a button that sends a mortar shell onto someone condemned to death and pushing a button that ends up electrifying a person to death or giving the person a lethal injection.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    @PJ: Yes, it may be messy but really humane.

  3. jd says:

    It doesn’t take loyalty. It only takes the fear that you’ll be next.

  4. Mikey says:

    I saw a video last week of the Taliban executing an Afghan police chief with an 80mm recoilless rifle. Surprisingly, the guy’s feet were still discernable. Not much else, though.

  5. sam says:
  6. anjin-san says:

    Rick Perry knowingly let an innocent man be executed, and conservatives cheered him for it. I guess I can understand why talking about how “they” are barbarians is preferable to a good hard look in the mirror.

  7. john personna says:

    It strikes me as more in line with English 15th century intrigues and executions.

  8. 11B40 says:


    I just don’t know about this.

    On the one hand, I watch a fair amount of the Korean Broadcasting System’s “KBS World” programming and its quasi-historical drams are replete with regime succession struggles, so KIm III whacking a bunch of former associates is no great surprise. Like they used to say about the Mafia in the Bronx of my youth, “an interesting career but the retirement plan stinks”, for even the most enlightened of dictators, as for even our own President Obama, there are, how shall I say it, “bumps in the road.”

    Then on the other hand, my experience of mortars and those who fire them raises doubt about the ability to “zero” them on a target. Mortars, like other forms of artillery, are “area” weapons. The recoil, if that’s what they call it, causes a bit movement which might very well preclude any “spot on” repetition. And, even a large mortar, with say a 4.2″ projectile, is not very likely to achieve the vaporization the young man seems desirous of achieving.

  9. john personna says:

    “In my current exploration of the British in India in the 19th C I came across references to the use of cannons by British troops for the execution of Indian rebels.”

    More here.

    There is a trick.

  10. Barry says:

    Doug: “The amount of blind loyalty it takes to carry out orders like this is quite terrifying actually.”

    I’d say that life in N. Korea is quite terrifying, on a daily basis.