(ATTN: UPDATES with more details of briefing)
SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has killed 15 senior officials this year, two South Korean lawmakers said Wednesday, in the latest public executions in the communist country.
In January, a vice forestry minister was executed for allegedly complaining about the country's forestation plan, the lawmakers told reporters after being briefed by South Korea's spy agency in a closed-door parliamentary session.
In March, four members of North Korea's Unhasu Orchestra were also executed on charges of espionage, Shin Kyoung-min of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said.
Lee Cheol-woo, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, said the four included the head of the orchestra and he presumed that they were executed for allegedly leaking secrets about Kim's family.
The orchestra has come under media spotlight in South Korea and other countries in recent years as North Korean first lady Ri Sol-ju was a singer for the orchestra.
In 2013, Japanese media reported that some members of the Unhasu Orchestra and an art troupe were executed for making pornography and that the execution was designed to cover up Ri's alleged involvement in the scandal.
North Korea has often carried out public executions in what critics say is aimed at instituting a reign of terror to consolidate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's grip on power that he inherited upon the death of his father and long-time leader Kim Jong-il in 2011.
In 2013, Kim executed his once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was accused of treason, a shocking purge that drew widespread condemnation and sparked concerns over possible instability.
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