North Korea military chief executed
Ri Yong-gil was said to have fallen out with Kim Jong-un as far back as 2014 KCNA via Reuters

Kim Jong-un continues to expand the list of high-profile figures executed in North Korea for alleged anti-state activities. Reports suggest the latest casualty is the country's former military chief, Ri Yong-gil.

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, army general Ri was charged with corruption and other crimes that had invoked the wrath of the dictator. He is believed to have been executed in the first week of February, roughly at the same time Pyongyang launched a satellite.

"Ri Yong-gil is known to have been faithful to principles, so it appears the North cited [the charges] to justify his execution," Yonhap reported, citing sources close to the matter. "This shows that Kim Jong-un is very nervous about the armed forces. It also shows his reign of terror continues," the source added.

Reports on the execution of Ri have been impossible to independently verify, as the secretive nation rarely allows outside observers in on internal matters. However, there have been many reports since 2014 of Ri falling out of favour with the ruling leader.

Ri was appointed in 2013 and had been one of Kim's closest aides. He was prominently featured in official photographs released by North Korea for various events.

But the senior military figure had been absent from press notes in recent times, including the statements issued after the latest satellite launch. Reports speculate Ri Myong-su has taken over as military chief.

There have been several significant executions reported in North Korea since Kim came to power, including those of high-level political figures and party officials. Observers attribute the deaths to Kim's desire to cement total control over the nation.

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