North Korea 'executes' its army chief

North Korea Military Chief Executed (FILE) In this May 22, 2013 file photo, Kim Hyong Jun, deputy minister Foreign Affairs, Ri Yong Gil, col. gen. of the Korean People's Army, pose before leaving Pyongyang Airport in North Korea for China | AP

North Korea has executed its army chief Ri Yong-gil, according to unconfirmed South Korean media reports.

Senior officials in North Korea have previously been absent from view for long periods only to reappear.

However, Gen Ri would be the latest of several high-ranking officials to be purged under leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korean media reported that Gen Ri had been executed earlier this month for corruption and "factional conspiracy", BBC reported.

Last week, a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party attended by Kim discussed how to deal with corruption.

While no individuals were mentioned, state news agency KCNA reported at the time that those at the meeting criticised "the practices of seeking privileges, misuse of authority... and bureaucratism manifested in the party".

North Korea rarely confirms these reports of purges and executions though it did announce the death of Kim Jong-un's uncle and mentor, Chang Song-thaek, in 2013.

In May 2015 South Korea's spy agency told parliament that the North's Defence Minister Hyon Yong-chol had been executed for showing disloyalty to Kim.

The agency said Hyon was killed by anti-aircraft fire in front of an audience of hundreds - it later said it was yet to verify the information. That news came weeks after the reported execution of 15 senior officials.

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