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Reports suggest that five North Korean Economic Ministry employees have been executed after criticising the policies of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The news first surfaced in Daily NK, which reports on the North from the South. According to the publication, authorities were alerted to the men’s conversation by one of their younger colleagues, who were later detained at work by North Korean secret police.
The five workers are said to have been executed on July 30.
Their families were also reportedly detained and sent to the Camp 15 gulag in Yodok.
Speaking about the intensifying crackdown a source said: “They are in a situation where they cannot even give any opinions.
“It is even more strict because the administration is trying to gain discipline.”
In recent months the North has gone through tumultuous political change.
Last month, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, was handed considerable and ranging powers, taking control of relations with the South and the US.
May noted that it was likely a move by the Kim family to deepen their ties as the country’s natural reigning dynasty.
The region has been slowly building an arsenal of nuclear weapons, some reportedly capable of reaching mainland US – although the US holds anti-missile technology and has nuclear weapons able to destroy the North.
However, in his 2018 Vox report, journalist and war correspondent Yochi Dreazen, noted how Kim might use his country’s resources to target the US in a different way to nuclear aggression.
He cites the number of chemical agents, such as VX, sarin, smallpox, yellow fever, anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, and even plague, the country has.
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Mr Dreazen wrote that “the consensus view is that Kim would try to level the playing field by using his vast arsenal of chemical weapons, which is believed to be the biggest and most technologically advanced in the world”.
With so many densely populated cities to target in its near-abroad, the North could use nerve agents to kill en masse.
The human death toll from such an attack would be huge, with military historian Reid Kirby estimating in 2017 that a sustained sarin attack could kill up to 2.5 million people in Seoul alone, while injuring nearly 7 million more.
All of this taken into consideration, Mr Dreazen explained that: “Men, women, and children would very literally choke to death in the streets of one of the world’s wealthiest and most vibrant cities.
“It would be mass murder on a scale rarely seen in human history.”
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Andrew Webber, formerly the assistant secretary of defence for nuclear, chemical, and biological defence programmes, told Mr Dreazen: “We would expect to see cocktails of fast-acting biological agents designed to stop troops in their tracks and regular infectious agents that would take more time to kill people.
“There would be a significant military impact, and a significant psychological one.
“It’s hard to overstate just how frightening these types of weapons are.”
In a 2017 report, researchers from Harvard University noted that minute quantities of anthrax “equivalent to a few bottles of wine” could kill up to half the population of a densely populated city like Seoul.
The paper speculates that “theoretically” it is possible that North Korea could fire missiles with payloads of anthrax or other biological weapons into South Korea, or use drones to disperse the lethal substances from the air.
The Harvard researchers also explained that Kim could potentially send North Korean citizens into the South to spread deadly virus’ and disease.
For example: “North Korean sleeper agents disguised as cleaning and disinfection personnel could disperse BW agents with backpack sprayers.”
Meanwhile, the North’s economy is believed to be suffering as a result of coronavirus restrictions and recent flooding.
Last week, Kim toured the Taechong-ri region, which was heavily damaged following 49 days of storms and heavy rain.
The disaster reportedly killed dozens, destroyed 17,000 homes and wiped out large areas of crops.
Losing the crops has intensified an already acute food shortage in the country.
According to Vienna University about 60 percent of North Korea’s population live in absolute poverty.
Express.co.uk reported that Kim has also ordered the execution of anyone who goes within one kilometre (0.6 miles) of the Chinese border.
The measure was introduced after widespread smuggling continued despite the coronavirus outbreaks.
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