According to North Korea’s state media, Kim Jong Un has fired the country’s second most powerful military official.
Second only to the North Korean leader himself, Park Jong-chun, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission and secretary of the party’s Central Committee, was replaced by Ri Yong-gil.
With no reason given for the change, Pyongyang has been regularly improving its leadership.
The announcement was made last week at the committee’s annual meeting, which is often used to announce major policy decisions and personnel changes.
State television showed Mr. Pak sitting with his head down in the front row of the podium during the meeting. Later his seat became vacant.
State news agency KCNA also released images of Mr Kim’s New Year’s Day visit to the Kumsosun Palace of the Sun, where Mr Pak was also absent.
It was different from October when Mr. Pak was with Mr. less On the party’s anniversary visit to the palace, which houses the bodies of his grandfather and father.
The change came as Mr Kim pushed for new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a larger nuclear arsenal to counter the US and South Korea.
Mr. Pak quickly climbed the military ladder, rising from a one-star artillery commander to a four-star general in five years.
In late 2020, he was promoted to the Politburo and received the title of marshal, the highest military rank under Mr. Kim. Crediting advances in the country’s short-range missile technology, he became a leading voice against joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States last November.
Like other top military aides, Mr. Pak was briefly demoted in mid-2021, after Mr. Kim reprimanded some officials for his handling. North KoreaAnti-Coronavirus Policy of Months later he was promoted again.
Oh Gyeongsup, a fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said the recent flare-up in inter-Korean tensions over North Korea’s drone strike in South Korea could have played a role in Mr Pak’s dismissal.
Three drones sent from South Korea in response to the alleged intrusion failed to be detected by North Korea, Mr. Oh said, with no response from the country.
“Pakistan may have accepted responsibility for the failure of security operations,” Mr Oh said.
Mr. Pak’s dismissal came after Mr. Kim praised the military’s progress in most weapons development during a committee meeting, unlike in other areas where he pointed out some shortcomings and called for improvements.
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