Conflict & Justice

North Korea appoints Hyon Yong Chol a vice marshal of Korean People’s Army


North Korean soldiers march during a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.



North Korea has named Hyon Yong Chol, a vice marshal of the Korean People’s Army, state media said Tuesday.

The move, two days after the country's military chief was fired in the biggest public power shift since the death of Kim Jong Il, was seen as aimed at tightening successor Kim Jong Un’s grip on the military, according to Agence France-Presse.

Ri, the chief of the general staff, was relieved of all his posts on Sunday due to "illness," AFP reported. 

The Associated Press quoted Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea analyst at the International Crisis Group, as saying: "There’s a very high probability that it wasn’t health issues, but that [Ri] was purged."

Hyon's promotion was made by the Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission, according to Bloomberg, citing the official Korean Central News Agency. 

There are at least four other vice marshals, but Hyon is believed to be the most likely to take over the top post of North Korea's so-called million-man army.

The family of Hyon, in his early 60s, fought against the Japanese alongside Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding father and Kim Jong Un's grandfather. 

"We can’t immediately conclude that Hyon is Ri’s replacement but the near-simultaneous announcements allow us to assume that he’s been chosen as a key military figure in the new Kim Jong Un era," Bloomberg quoted Koh Yu Hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University, as saying.

"An unknown figure being publicly singled out proves that he’s of the new Kim regime, unlike veteran officials like Ri."

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