Kim Jong-un Has Removed North Korea’s Number Two Military Officer

New COVID in North Korea
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According to reports from state media, North Korea has removed Pak Jong Chon from his position as the second most influential military officer behind leader Kim Jong Un.

Ri Yong Gil succeeded Pak as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and as a secretary of the party’s Central Committee at the committee’s annual meeting last week, according to the official KCNA news agency on Sunday. Pak was replaced by Ri Yong Gil in both of those positions.

There was no explanation provided for the change in policy. The leadership in Pyongyang undergoes frequent shakeups, and the end-of-year party conference is often utilized as a platform from which to announce personnel changes and significant policy choices.

During the meeting, Pak was seen sitting in the front row of the podium with his head down as other members raised their hands to vote on personnel concerns. This image was shown on state television. Later investigation revealed that his seat had been left vacant.

Unlike in October, when Pak accompanied Kim on a trip to the palace to mark a party anniversary, he was not present in photographs taken during Kim’s visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on New Year’s Day, which houses the bodies of his grandfather and father. These photographs were published on Monday by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The Central Military Commission of the party, which Kim presides over as chairman, is regarded as the most powerful military decision-making body in the nation, ranking even higher than the ministry of defense.

Kim called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a greater nuclear arsenal to challenge the United States and South Korea as a crucial component of North Korea’s defense policy for the year 2023, which coincided with Pak’s succession as leader of the country’s military.

Pak had made significant advancements in his military career, rising from the rank of a one-star artillery commander in 2015 to that of a four-star general in 2020. He claimed credit for having contributed to the advancement of the nation’s short-range missile technology.

Pak was given a promotion to the politburo in late 2020 and was given the title of marshal, which is the highest military rank under Kim. In November of the same year, Pak became a major advocate opposing joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.

Pak, along with the majority of other top military aides, went through ups and downs repeatedly under Kim. In the middle of 2021, Pak was demoted for a short period of time after Kim reprimanded certain officials for their handling of North Korea’s anti-coronavirus policy, but he was promoted once more a few months later.

Pak was fired despite the fact that Kim praised the military’s progress in weapon development for the most part during the discussion. This was in contrast to other areas in which Kim pointed out certain shortcomings and advocated for improvements.

According to Oh Gyeong-sup, a fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, a recent flare-up in tension between the two Koreas over North Korean drones’ infiltration into the South might have had a part in the incident.

According to officials based in Seoul, South Korea responded to the infiltration by sending three drones over the border into North Korea. However, there was no reaction from the North, which Oh said may suggest that it was unable to detect the aircraft.

Oh speculated that Pak could have accepted blame for the unsuccessful completion of the security activities.

Ri, Pak’s successor, is also a top military officer who has held crucial posts, such as head of the army’s general staff and defense minister, throughout his time in the military.

 

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