Kim Jong Un has executed 15 opponents, claims South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the execution of 15 senior officials this year who were accused of challenging his authority, according to South Korea.
The claim was made by South Korea's National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung at a closed briefing with the country's MPs.
Lee also said Kim appeared likely to visit Russia next month to attend the 70th anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Since taking over North Korea's leadership after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011, Kim has removed key members of the old guard through a series of purges.
The process was highlighted by the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason.
Jang was married to Kim Jong Il's sister and was once considered the second -most powerful man in North Korea.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies, said the purges underline Kim's inexperience as a young dictator who is struggling to find effective ways to control his regime.
Lee told the lawmakers that a North Korean official with a rank comparable to a vice Cabinet minister in the South was executed in January for questioning Kim's policies on forestation.
Another North Korean official of similar rank was executed in February for resisting Kim's plans to construct a new building in the shape of a flower, named after his grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.
The agency also believes that North Korea used a firing squad in March to execute four senior members of Pyongyang's famous Unhasu Orchestra on charges of espionage, which Lee did not explain in any detail.
He told the lawmakers that North Korea has yet to book a hotel in Moscow for Kim's possible visit, but that the country's embassy is large and well-equipped enough to accommodate him. It would be Kim's first overseas trip since taking power.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has decided not to attend the May 9 event in Moscow and plans to send an envoy instead.
The spy agency did not explain how it had confirmed the executions.