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Is Kim Jong Un conducting a blood purge of North Korea’s elite?

Little is known about the quality of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s relationships with the senior officials of his government, but events over the past several months seem to show signs of strain. And his actions against his own family also suggest that the dictator feels he has something to fear.

Although reports of Kim feeding out-of-favor family members to dogs appear to be sensationalized (h/t The Guardian), there are also reports of him taking such extreme measures as executing security officials who have offended him with antiaircraft guns (h/t The Telegraph) in order to send a message to anyone who might make the same mistake.

Kim Jong Un is thought to be behind the assassination of his older brother Kim Jong Nam, who was killed with the banned nerve agent VX in a Malaysia airport in a paid job involving two women. The killing was caught on airport security cameras:

His exact motivation is not known, and the move is said to have angered China (the North’s primary patron) as the elder Kim had been under that country’s protection, living openly in Macau. Kim Jong Un may have believed his brother sought to claim their father’s legacy, or that he was somehow cooperating with foreign intelligence services to overthrow the Kim regime.

Next page: More on the Kim family’s relationships with the North’s military and latest signs of trouble.

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