(IBT) North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has killed hundreds of government officials since taking office five years ago, Korean media reported Thursday. In all, he has killed 340 North Koreans while defending his control over the reclusive nation by threatening to attack Seoul and Washington with a fledging arsenal of nuclear weapons.
His victims vary from high-ranking officials to members of his own family. In one instance that made global headlines, Kim ordered the death of his uncle-in-law Jang Song Thaek in a public execution for trying to overthrow the government. In another instance, Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol was killed suddenly in 2015 in front of his family.
Kim is a third-generation ruler. He took the reigns in North Korea on Dec. 30, 2011, after his father’s death. He rules the Korean Workers’ Party with an authoritative grip, according to reports.
“There were 3 [purged or executed] in 2012, more than 30 in 2013, greater than 40 in 2014, and more than 60 in 2015,” Yonhap reported. “The numbers show a rapid increase.”
Roughly 140 of those killed were senior government officials, according to the South Korean think-tank the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS). One official, for example, was killed in August with an anti-aircraft gun on Kim’s orders after he fell asleep in a meeting.
Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst from the RAND Corporation think-tank, told CNN Kim had demonstrated an “extreme” level of brutality while in office.
“For example, in the five years he has served as leader of North Korea, he has purged his defense minister five times, while his father changed his defense minister only three times in his 17 years. And two of those changes were because they died of old age,” he said.
At the same time, Kim has directed mass amounts of the impoverished nation’s budget toward nuclear and missile development. He has spent roughly $300 million on weapons development.
Kim also likes to remind North Koreans of his absolute power. He earmarked $180 million in spending toward the construction of 460 statues or monuments honoring his family’s regime.
“Kim is continuing to replace the old guard of his father’s regime with loyalists,” said Robert Kelly, a political science professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, in August. “The charges are obviously trumped up, and this is how promotion or demotion often works in totalitarian states without legitimate venues for opposition.”