North Korea has promoted a general long seen as a rising star to a position in the presidium of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK), in a reshuffling that analysts are calling the most significant personnel change among the core elite in years.
According to South Korean news agency, Yonhap, Pak Jon Chon appears to have replaced Ri Pyong-chol on the presidium and will also serve as secretary of the WPK Central Committee.
Reuters reports that Pak’s election came after he appeared to have been demoted in July, along with other senior figures, on the orders of Kim Jong-un.
The North Korean leader accused officials of causing a “great crisis” with unspecified coronavirus lapses, despite the fact that the Asian country hasn’t reported any confirmed cases of the virus.
Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said that Pak’s demotion in July may have been something of a formality, to show people that he was taking responsibility for failures, and that he would likely be reinstated at any time, which looks to be the case now.
Experts see this most recent reshuffling as a further warning that Kim Jong Un would hold the core elite accountable and maintain checks on their power.
Pak’s career has seen him be promoted to a full four-star Army general and lead the military as chief of the general staff of the army.
Analysts attributed his rise in part to his role in North Korea’s short-range missile development, which surged ahead after Kim Jong Un suspended long-range ballistic missile tests in 2018 amid talks with Donald Trump.
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Other changes reported by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) saw Rim Kwang-il, who previously served as head of the country’s military intelligence agency, named as chief of the general staff of the army, while army general Jang Jong-nam was elected as the Minister of Social Security.
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