Ho-hum. Just another rainy day in North Korea. This probably means that Kim Jung-un is busy ordering another execution. The latest casualty, that we know of at least, was the Vice Premier, Choe Yong Gun. The North Korean leader, having exhausted all of his anti-aircraft ammunition during the execution of Hyon Yong Chol in May, decided to be ironic and had Gun executed by a firing squad. The reason for the Vice Premier’s death: trees.

Kim Jung-un looking at a tree nursery

Although the execution occurred nearly eight months ago, it is only now that details surrounding the event are emerging from the secretive state. It seems that the punishing weather that North Korea experienced during the last twenty-four months is also part of the story. In late 2013, devastating rains struck the nation and caused flooding that killed over twenty people and displaced thousands of citizens. After that disaster, Kim ordered the establishment of a massive tree planting project to prevent soil erosion. That plan actually makes sense and might be the most rational idea he’s come up with since taking over control of North Korea.

Unfortunately for Choe Yong Gun, he disagreed and did not follow through with Kim Jung-un’s decree. At first, this didn’t appear to matter since a debilitating drought plagued the state for eighteen month and the possibility of flooding was non-existent. But then, in December 2014, it came time for the annual performance review and the Vice Premier received a negative evaluation. This was the final strike that led to his execution. Kim Jung-un has now overseen the execution of at least 70 political and military leaders during his reign.

Breaking News: Terrible flooding struck North Korea during the first week of August 2015. Over twenty people died, while nearly 700 houses were destroyed. Also ruined were many fields, river crossings, and roads. I would not want to be Choe Yong Gun’s replacement right now. For his sake, I hope he’s on his hands and knees…planting saplings.

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Steve Pame

Steve Pame

A part-time graduate student and high school teacher, Steve enjoys just about anything that makes him forget all the student loans he'll never be able to pay back. He enjoys visiting his extended family, spread throughout the world, whenever he has a chance.