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(LEAD) N. Korea's military chief executed on corruption charges: sources

All Headlines 17:13 February 10, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with details from 3rd para; CHANGES attribution to multiple sources)

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- The chief of North Korea's military was executed this month on corruption and other charges, sources familiar with North Korean affairs said Wednesday.

Army Gen. Ri Yong-gil, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, also faced charges of pursuing personal gains, the sources said.

According to one source, Ri was executed last week around the time North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a joint meeting of the North's ruling Workers' Party and the military.

Ri, who was appointed to the post in 2013, had won Kim's favor and accompanied him on various inspection trips to military exercises and the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, the equivalent of the South's Defense Ministry, until last month.

However, he was absent from the joint meeting of the party and the military as well as from events in Pyongyang that celebrated the successful launch of a satellite on Sunday.

In listing the leaders present at the celebrations, the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper did not mention Ri and instead listed Gen. Ri Myong-su in his place.

Ri Myong-su, a former minister of people's security, may have replaced Ri Yong-gil as chief of the General Staff, said one source.

"Ri Yong-gil is known to have been faithful to principles, so it appears the North cited (the charges) to justify his execution," the source said.

The source also raised the possibility that Ri may have raised objections to Kim's recent appointment of party leaders to key military posts.

Otherwise, there could have been a plot to remove Ri among those within the party's leadership, the source added.

If confirmed, Ri's removal comes less than a year after Kim executed his defense minister.

"This shows that Kim Jong-un is very nervous about the armed forces," the source said. "It also shows his reign of terror continues."

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