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ASIA > Kim appoints new army head, strengthens his grip

SEOUL - Agence France Presse

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North Korean leader Kim (R) claps as he attends a military ceremony in Pyongyang. AFP photo

North Korean leader Kim (R) claps as he attends a military ceremony in Pyongyang. AFP photo

North Korea has named a new army vice marshal, state media said yesterday, as part of a reshuffle apparently aimed at tightening young leader Kim Jong-un’s grip on the communist state’s powerful military.

Hyon Yong Chol, a veteran field commander, was awarded “the title of vice marshal of the Korean People’s Army,” one of four people in the North to hold the rank, after Ri Yong-ho was removed from his posts, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Hyon was highly likely to become head of the 1.2-million-strong military, taking over from Vice Marshal Ri, the chief of the general staff, who was relieved of all his posts on July 15.

Little known
He was also likely to take over Ri’s other key posts such as a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the party Central Committee and a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, analysts said. Little is known about Hyon, but he is believed to be from a family who fought alongside North Korea’s founding father Kim Il-sung against Japanese forces during the colonial era. Reshuffle apparently aimed at tightening young leader Kim Jong-un’s grip on the communist state’s powerful military, KCNA reported.

Cheong Seong-Chang of the Sejong Institute said since Hyon’s promotion to a general in 2010, he had been seen as one of the key figures expected to play a role in Kim Jong-un gaining control over the military. Illness was the reason cited for army chief Ri Yong Ho’s departure, but to some outside analysts it resembled a purge by Kim as he tries to shape the government he inherited seven months ago. The announcement of Hyon’s promotion could further that goal; he is the fourth vice marshal appointment North Korea has made public since the death of Kim’s father.

July/18/2012

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