State backpedals to keep lid on Hyon incident

North Korean authorities have issued a
directive for the military to keep mum about the execution of Hyon Yong Chol,
the recently executed minister of the People’s Armed Forces [MPAF]. According
to sources within the country, the mandate is a bid to prevent inciting
internal chaos within the military regarding the execution of its top core

“Orders from the top have been handed down
calling for severe punishments to those who ‘spread absurd rumors’ about the head of the MPAF,” a source from South Pyongan Province told
Daily NK on June 1st. “There were some lectures [regarding the incident] last month, but now people are being tight-lipped, and Party
cadres aren’t mentioning anything related to the incident.”

As the source sees it, the authorities know
that executing Hyon by antiaircraft gun is “nothing to be proud of” and may
worry that public—and more importantly, internal–responses could garner
sympathy for his demise–or at the very least fuel speculation as to why he was
put to death, fanning the flames of another proverbial fire for the authorities to scramble to quash. 

North Korea’s system changed rapidly when Lee
Hyo Soon and Park Geum Chul were executed in 1967 for anti-Party,
anti-revolutionary acts under Kim Il Sung’s leadership. He quickly followed the
brutal deed with a brief lecture and ordered people to never speak of it again.
“Prohibiting discussion altogether is the regime’s tactic to try to keep rumors
from spreading,” he asserted.  

Born in the mountains of North Hamkyung
Province, Hyon walked an elite path, graduating from Mankyung Revolutionary
Academy followed by Kim Il Sung Military University. Praised as having unparalleled
interpersonal skills, he quickly rose to the higher echelons of military power:
the fallen official climbed from chief of the General Staff for the Chosun
People’s Army [KPA] to commander of the KPA’s 5th Corps before eventually becoming
the head of the MPAF.

Social prowess led many in the military to
favor Hyon and maintain a positive image of him. The authorities, well aware of
this, hope the recent order will ensure those in the military remember to toe
the Party line without opposition, according to the source.

“This is about keeping people in check
those who are displaying sympathy for someone else, rather than those who are
opposing the Marshal [Kim Jong Un],” the source explained. “If signs of
compassion for Hyon emerge from the MPAF, a sweeping purge through the
organization is very possible.”

Residents are largely aware of Hyon’s
execution but the source reported no outlandish rumors surrounding the incident
circulating among them. In fact, most are not really expending much energy to
discuss it in much detail at all. “It’s said that Hyon was put to death for
dozing off, but nobody believes that. Everyone knows there must have been some type
of conspiracy, so we’ll just wait and see…it’ll come out in time.”

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