North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has shot dead his defence minister for treason — killing him with an antiaircraft gun because he fell asleep during a meeting — South Korea’s main intelligence agency has told

If the report by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service is confirmed, the killing of General Hyon Yong-chol would be the latest in a series of purges by young North Korean leader.

In the more than two years that Kim, in his early 30s, has been at the helm, he has allegedly purged dozens of senior officials in an apparent effort to consolidate his control of the isolated country and cow potential threats to his rule.

On Tuesday morning, intelligence agents told lawmakers in a closed session that Hyon was executed using an antiaircraft gun for falling asleep during a meeting at which Kim was present and for not following some of Kim’s orders.

The NIS did not explain how the agents concluded that Hyon had been executed, mentioning only that he had not appeared in reports by North Korea’s official state media since sometime last month.

South Korean media ran photos on Wednesday of Hyon appearing sleepy and inattentive while seated near Kim during meetings in April.

Stories about state-orchestrated violence and repression in North Korea, often attributed to unnamed sources, appear frequently in the South Korean media. But the fact that the report on Hyon came during an official government hearing gives it significant credibility, analysts say.

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