Remember those days in the military where early morning briefings forced several attendees to stand up and walk to the back of the room to keep from dozing off? Maybe some did push-ups during intermission to stave off sleepiness.
In North Korea, that struggle can be a matter of life and death.
Just the other day, a few push-ups might have saved Ri Yong Jin, a North Korean education minister, from a horrible fate. He was arrested for dozing off during a meeting with DPRK dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Jane Onyanga-Omara of USA Today.
He was accused of corruption and sentenced to die. The method?
Death by anti-aircraft cannon.
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea released a report in 2015 detailing satellite imagery that shows what they believe to be a special military facility for such executions. Located just outside of the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, the Kanggon Military Facility contains a 100-meter firing range, complete with viewing area that’s big enough to accommodate anti-aircraft guns.
In October 2014, the regular firing lanes were replaced with six ZPU-4 anti-aircraft guns, using fearsome 14.5mm caliber rounds – a total of 24 heavy guns. Many believe an execution was performed at the Kanggon site just after a satellite grabbed an image of the guns.
Since taking power in 2012, Kim Jong Un spent much of his time consolidating his power base, executing the “old guard” of his father’s regime and keeping only Kim Jong Un stalwarts to prevent a coup. This isn’t even the first time he used anti-aircraft guns to execute a high-level official.
This time around, Kim Jong Un also executed an official in the agriculture ministry with AA fire because his policy efforts contradicted the young dictator’s directives. In 2015, the DPRK’s defense minister was reportedly killed by ZPU-4 guns. The regime has been known to use mortars and flamethrowers to execute dissidents and officials. Kim Jong Un even reportedly fed his uncle to a pack of hungry dogs.
A recent spat of high-profile defections to South Korea aren’t helping things settle down in the North. A public relations official for North Korea, based in London defected to the South with his family in August. Voice of America’s Youmi Kim quoted South Korean President Park-Geun Hye as saying the defections are a mark of the North’s current instability.
“Recently, even North Korea’s elite group is collapsing, followed by key North Korean figures defecting to foreign countries, showing a sign of serious cracks with chances of shaking the regime higher,” Park told VOA.