It appears the media missed what could eventually become a major international story. Instead, the networks seemed obsessed with their nonstop coverage of the dismissal of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the president's call to investigate the national intelligence community over alleged leaks of sensitive information.
Somehow, the apparent assassination of a possible successor to the current leader of North Korea was overlooked as nothing significant. However, the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of current leader Kim Jong Un, appears to represent another step to purge the Communist government of anyone deemed unfaithful to the regime's elite.
Since taking power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has taken unprecedented steps to remove anyone he feels is a threat. In 2013, for example, he had his own uncle, Jang Song-thaek, executed on charges of factionalism, corruption and plotting to overthrow the government.
More recently, Gen. Kim Won-hong, North Korea's minister of state security chief, was "demoted" as part of this purge within the upper reaches of Kim's government. That's doesn't include the others that were fired, demoted or executed as Kim tries to consolidate his power through what officials in South Korea as well as North Korean defectors have called a "reign of terror."
What we're seeing in the Communist North bears a striking resemblance to the reign of terror perpetrated by Roman Emperor Caligula, who ruled from 37 to 41 AD. Historians have classified Caligula as an insane tyrant who lived a life of cruelty, sadism and extravagance. He made former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein seem like a respectable person.
Caligula is perhaps best remembered by a statement attributed to him that states, "Let them hate me, so that they will but fear me." Perhaps this is why Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy led by the Praetorian Guard as well as Rome's senators.
Following the execution of another member of North Korea's inner circle, I continue to wonder if what we're seeing today is similar to what happened in Rome nearly 2,000 years ago. Granted, access to reliable information from North Korea is spotty at best due to its extreme isolationism and its efforts to only show the rest of the world what it wants to highlight.
Having served in South Korea, I have gained a better appreciation of the precariousness of the situation on the Korean peninsula. My time there included a visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone at the Joint Security Area, located at Panmunjom.
It's here that both sides come together to address needs and concerns. These discussions happen inside one building that crosses the borders of both countries.
I don't think I have ever felt more uncomfortable in my life. Just watching the South Korea guards face their North Korean counterparts made me wonder just what it would take for both sides to resume open hostilities.
One thing to remember is that both sides are technically at a state of war. There is only an armistice in place that maintains a fragile state of peace.
Each night, people in the Communist North are warned to remain vigilant because they are going to be invaded "tomorrow." This is the same message that for nearly 64 years has dominated the minds of those who have been conditioned to distrust South Korea and its allies.
Even with this constant barrage of Communist propaganda, there are those in that government who know the truth of what's happening. On occasion, I will catch a report regarding someone who was able to successfully defect to South Korea.
What these defectors have indicated is the likelihood that Kim is losing the support of his inner circle. It's this group of elite, influential and wealthy individuals that has kept Kim and his predecessors in power all these years.
Without the support of this inner circle as well as North Korea's military hierarchy, I would wager that Kim wouldn't stand a chance remaining in power. I can picture him facing the same fate as Caligula.
Perhaps this is why Kim has continued to purge the "unfaithful" from the ranks of this elite group. If the leader of this type of government is willing to order the death of his own uncle nearly four years ago, I shudder to think of what else he is capable of doing to his own followers to demand their loyalty.
So why is this so important, and why did it deserve better news coverage? It's because of the potential consequences that could happen if Kim decides to escalate things.
If he feels like he's being forced into a corner, I fear that he could decide to go down fighting by launching an unwarranted attack against South Korea.
It's been documented that North Korea has a sizeable amount of artillery capable of raining destruction on South Korea's capitol of Seoul. That opening salvo would cause catastrophic destruction the likes of which the world hasn't seen since the fire bombing of Toyko or the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It's been said that opening artillery barrage would literally flatten the South Korean capitol -- a city that's home to more than 10.9 million people.
The one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is that North Korea has a significant stockpile of chemical and biological warfare weapons. In addition, we know the country also has a handful of nuclear weapons in that arsenal.
Combine these weapons with the intermediate range missiles that North Korea continues to test -- the most recent of which happened earlier this month -- and the threat isn't limited to the Korean peninsula. While the reliability of these missiles remains in doubt, all it would take is one carrying a payload of sarin nerve gas or weaponized anthrax to wipe out an entire city.
Then again, Kim could grow so desperate that he might find ways to sell these weapons and the technology behind them to rogue nations and terrorist groups that would love to get their hands on these weapons of mass destruction.
While it's still too early to determine whether the ongoing purge of the North Korean government will lead to a final showdown, we can only hope that calmer heads will prevail. My hope is that there's a growing number of people opposed to the Communist regime that are willing to take a stand -- to come to a peaceful resolution with their neighbors to the south.
-- Brian S. Orban