February 1, 2023

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North Korea dismisses Kim’s second military official


Seoul, South Korea
Reuters

North Korea has sacked Pak Jong Chun, the second most powerful military official after leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday that Park, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and secretary of the party’s Central Committee, was replaced by Ri Yong Gil at the committee’s annual meeting last week.

No reason was given for the change. Pyongyang regularly revamps its leadership, and the party rally at the end of the year has often been used to announce personnel reshuffles and major policy decisions.

State television showed Pak sitting in the front row of the stage with his head down during the meeting while other members raised their hands to vote on personnel issues. His seat later appeared vacant.

He was also absent from the photos published by the official Korean Central News Agency on Monday of Kim’s visit on New Year’s Day to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun that houses the bodies of his grandfather and father, in contrast to October when Pak accompanied Kim on a trip to the Palace of the Sun. Palace to celebrate the anniversary of the party.

The party’s Central Military Commission, which Kim chairs, is the country’s most powerful military decision-making body, above the defense ministry.

Pak’s replacement came as Kim called Develop new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a larger nuclear arsenal To counter the United States and South Korea as the key to the isolated country’s defense strategy 2023.

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Buck rapidly climbed the military ladder from a one-star artillery captain in 2015 to a four-star general in 2020, receiving credit for contributing to advances in the nation’s short-range missile technology.

In late 2020, Pak was promoted to the Politburo and given the title of Field Marshal, the highest military rank under Kim, and became a leading voice last November against joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

Like most other senior military aides who have had their ups and downs over and over again under Kim, Pak was briefly demoted in mid-2021 after Kim criticized some officials over their handling of North Korea’s anti-coronavirus policy, before being promoted again after Months.

Park’s dismissal came despite Kim mostly praising military progress in weapons development during the meeting, in contrast to other areas in which he pointed out some shortcomings and called for improvement.

Oh Jeong-sub, a fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said the recent escalation in inter-Korean tension over North Korean drones incursion into the South It could have played a role.

Seoul officials said South Korea sent three drones across the border in response to the intrusion, but there was no response from North Korea, which Oh said could mean it failed to spot the plane.

“Pak may have taken responsibility for the failure of the security operations,” Oh said.

Rhee, Pak’s successor, is also a senior military leader who has held key positions including Chief of Army General Staff and Minister of Defense.