The DPRK’s leading official in the production of conventional and advanced weapons has reappeared following a four-month absence from state media. Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and National Defense Commission [NDC] Member Pak To Chun attended the Worker-Peasant Red Guard parade and Pyongyangites’ demonstration held in Pyongyang on 9 September (Monday) to mark the 65th anniversary of the country’s foundation. During the parade Pak stood on the parade review platform with other VIPs, standing between KWP Secretary Choe Tae Bok and Honorary Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium Vice President Choe Yong Rim. Pak’s last observed appearance occurred in early May, when he attended sports competitions between workers in the public health sector. Pak’s absence from the DPRK’s political culture was especially noticeable when he did not attend Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) tour of Jagang Province, where Pak was an influential KWP official and industrial manager. When Pak failed to attend a number of events to mark the end of the active hostilities of the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War in July, he was presumed to have been removed from office. A number of reasons for Pak’s disappearance or possible dismissal were given, including the failure of a possible test launch of the Mususan intermediate range ballistic missile and allegations of corruption. Pak To Chun’s disappearance from state media might be correlated to the rise and fall of Gen. Kim Kyok Sik. Gen. Kim was appointed Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff around the same time Pak disappeared. Pak only re-emerged in DPRK public life after Gen. Kim Kyok Sik was removed as chief of the general staff.
The Worker-Peasant Red Guards [WPRG] staged a parade, followed by a demonstration by Pyongyangites, in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on 9 September (Monday), the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the DPRK. Kim Jong Un attended the WPRG parade and demonstration. Also on the reviewing platform were senior DPRK officials including Kim Yong Nam (Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium President), Pak Pong Ju (DPRK Premier), VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department), “the chairperson of a friendly party, officials of the party, armed forces organs and the Cabinet and chief secretaries of Provincial Party Committees of the WPK” along with “Kwon Sun Hwi, advisor to the Central Standing Committee of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, and Choe Un Bok, chairwoman of the General Association of Koreans in China.” Also in attendance were “deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly, officials of the party, armed forces and power bodies, social organizations, ministries and national institutions, service personnel of the KPA and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, officials in the fields of science, education, literature and arts, public health and media, merited people, delegations of overseas Koreans and other compatriots and the chief of the Pyongyang Mission of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front” and “foreign delegations and delegates, foreign diplomatic envoys and representatives of international bodies and their wives and military attaches here and other foreign guests.”
The flags of the DPRK and Korean Workers’ Party were raised with musical accompaniment. WPRG members were ceremoniously inspected then presented to Kim Jong Un by Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Gen. Jang Jong Nam. After the presentation of the WPRG members DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju delivered a speech in which, according to KCNA, he said “that the history of the DPRK clearly proves immutable truth that the great leaders assure the high dignity and prosperity of the country and nation” and “stressed that the army and people of the DPRK holding the peerlessly great men in high esteem generation after generation will as ever dynamically advance along the road of independence, Military-First (So’ngun) and socialism and it will shine forever as the socialist state of Juche with the invincible might.”
After Pak’s speech the WPRK parade began with the marching of flags displaying of the portraits late DPRK President and founder Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng) and his son late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il). This was followed by WPRG members emptying Kim Il Sung Square and its vicinity to mark past the parade reviewing platform. The WPRG members consisted of reserve military training units members of the WPRG’s units from the provinces, at industrial complexes and agricultural sites, along with WPRG units of the Ministries of Land Management and Public Health, reserve units from DPRK universities and members of the Young Red Guard. The parade marchers were followed by a ride-past of multiple-launch rockets systems [MLRS] and towed artillery pieces. A parade and demonstration by the citizens of Pyongyang followed the WPRK parade which began with a float consisting of replicas of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il statues amid a a sea of people carrying the DPRK flag. According to KCNA “columns of dancers depicting the national flag, Taekwon-do players, military families, artistes, scientists, sportspersons, teachers and medical workers walked past the square” and “letters reading ‘Kim Il Sung’, ‘Kim Jong I’, ‘Kim Jong Un’, ‘Glory’, ‘Celebration of 65th Anniversary’, ‘Great Mt. Paketu (Paektusan) Nation’, ‘Speed on Masik Pass’, ‘Economic Power’, ‘Single-minded Unity’, etc. were presented on the square and the flags of the DPRK and the WPK were portrayed in succession.”
At the end of the parade “there were loud hurrahs resounding far and wide, fireworks being shot up and balloons rising to the sky. Kim Jong Un, accompanied by VMar Choe Ryong Hae and Jang Song Taek, walked along the parade reviewing platform’s deck with Kim Jong Un waving to the crowd.
A few recent internal political issues (involving personnel matters) could be observed at the WPRK parade and demonstration. Events held to mark the DPRK’s 65th anniversary were going to provide clarity on the current officeholder of Chief of the KPA General Staff. Based on the standing order on the parade reviewing platform, Gen. Ri Yong Gil was standing in the spot previously occupied by Gen. Kim Kyok Sik indicating that Gen. Ri has replaced Gen. Kim. Ri Yong Gil has also been replaced, with a new and unknown Chief of the General Staff Operations Bureau attending to Kim Jong Un during the WPRG parade. The anniversary event also marked the return of KWP Secretary and weapons industry boss Pak To Chun. Pak had not appeared in state media for several months and distinctly absent from war anniversary events in July. Pak was shown at least three times, standing along side other senior KWP officials. Kim Jong Un’s walk along the parade reviewing platform’s balcony to wave to the crowd was an interesting tabeleaux du régime for leadership dynamics. Usual post-parade platform walks by the supreme leader have usually involved senior officials such as the SPA Presidium President, the DPRK Premier and the Chief of the KPA General Staff; instead, Kim Jong Un was accompanied by KPA General Political Department Director VMar Choe Ryong Hae and National Defense Commission Vice Chairman Jang Song Taek. When taken with images and film footage of the war anniversary events from July, Kim Jong Un’s balcony walk shows the DPRK’s top three political officials.
“Despite the fact that after I am gone, it will still not be too late to use your people, why are you in such a rush to try to handle things your way?”–Kim Jong Il, December 2011
Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok has been appointed as the DPRK’s senior vice minister of defense. Col. Gen. Jon, the former director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Logistics Department, was identified as 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces when he attended Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visit to the 20 February Foodstuffs Factory of the KPA. Jon Chang Bok is a member of the Party Central Committee and was a member of the National Funeral Committee for Kim Jong Il. His last observed public appearance was his attendance with KJU at a May Day-themed concert by the U’nhasu Orchestra in early May 2013. Jon also visited Ku’msusan Memorial Palace with KJU and other members of the central leadership on the anniversary of late leader Kim Jong Il’s birth in February 2013. In March 2013, Jon delivered the keynote speech at the opening of the Taeso’ngsan General Hospital in Pyongyang. He also joined members of the core leadership when they escorted the Moranbong Band on a visit and performance at KPA Large Combined Unit (taeyonhap pudae) #630. In August 2011, Col. Gen. Jon led a KPA delegation on an official visit to China.
Jon replaces VMar Hyon Chol Hae, a former close military aide to Kim Jong Il. VMar Hyon was appointed 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in April 2012 and was also elected a full member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau and a member of the Party Central Military Commission. From 2007 to 2012, VMar Hyon was director of the National Defense Commission [NDC] Standing Bureau, which was responsible for logistical and security arrangements for Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un field inspections of KPA units. During the 3rd Party Conference in September 2010, Hyon sat in the gallery to Kim Jong Un’s left. From 1995 to 2007 VMar Hyon was a deputy director of the KPA General Political Department, with responsibility for organization. From 1986 to 1995, Hyon served as Director of the KPA General Logistics Department (under the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces). He was reappointed Director of the GLD in April 2012, replacing Jon Chang Bok. It is not clear if Hyon has been removed from his GLD position, which may have been reclaimed by Jon Chang Bok. It is not clear if Hyon’s removal from office is an actual “purge” or if it is tied to the last week’s dismissal of Gen. Kim Kyok Sik as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.
Hyon is the latest DPRK elite affected by a series of personnel changes in the party, the government and security organizations. In February 2013, Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il replaced Gen. Ri Myong Su as Minister of the People’s Security. Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil replace Choe Pu Il as Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau In March 2013, Paek Kye Ryong replaced Pak Pong Ju as Director of the KWP Light Industry Department and Yun U Chol replaced Kim Ki Ryong as editor of the KWP’s daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun. In April 2013, Pak Pong Ju was re-appointed DPRK Cabinet Premier, replacing Choe Yong Rim, who was elected Honorary Vice President of the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA]. Former President of the State Academy of Social Sciences Tae Hyong Chol was appointed President of Kim Il Sung University, replace Song Ja Rip. Tae vacated his position as SPA Secetary-General and was replaced by Hong Son Ok. April 2013 also found Ri Yong Yong appointed Minister of Coal Industry, replacing Kim Hyong Sik. In May 2013 Choe Hwi appere to have replaced Ri Jae Il as the Senior Deputy of the KWP Propaganda and Agitation [publicity and information] Department.
DPRK state media reported on 29 April (Monday) that DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju visited the Sunch’o'n Area Youth Coal Mining Complex. Pak was briefed about coal production at the 8 February Jikdong Youth Coal Mine and learned about the deposit and yield of other coal mines in the area. Pak held a meeting with local officials and managers of the coal mines at which he “underscored the importance of the coal production in stepping up the building of an economic power and carrying out the new strategic line of the Workers’ Party of Korea on simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear force,” according to KCNA. The meeting also addressed ”issues of working out a correct business strategy as required by the socialist economic management in the new century and rationally and scrupulously managing enterprise and manpower” and “underscored the need for the relevant units to work out plans in line with the production capacity of coal mines and put the supply of materials on a par with production as immediate tasks.” Pak Pong Ju also toured others areas of the Sunchon coal mining complex and “discussed matters for combining production with technology. “
Pak’s predecessor, Choe Yong Rim, last visited the Sunch’o'n coal mining complex and the 8 February Jikdong Youth Coal Mine in January 2013.
DPRK state media reported on 23 April (Tuesday) that DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju visited agricultural sites in South Hwanghae Province and the Kim Jong Suk Textile Mill. Pak’s visited the Kim Jong Suk Textile Mill in east Pyongyang where he “learned about the modernization” of the mill, according to KCNA. Pak also visited Haeju, provincial capital of South Hwagnhae, where he toured a fertilizer factory and greenhouse.
Pak Pong Ju also visited Chongjong Cooperative Farm in Ch’o'ngdan County and the Pumin Cooperative Farm in Kangryo’ng County “where the farmers are all out in farming in the spirit of the March, 2013 plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” According to KCNA Pak “encouraged the agricultural workers who are making efforts to raise good crops to suit to the characteristics of each land and each area and according to the crop growth conditions, standing the bad weather” and “stressed the need for the farms to introduce the advanced farming method and display the advantages of sub-workteam management system, adding that it is a firm resolution of our party to solve the food problem of the people.” Pak held a meeting with provincial officials and agricultural employees at which he “noted that the officials and other people in the agricultural field should boost their responsibilities and roles as the master of farming, bearing in their minds the continued devotion made by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to improve the people’s standard of living.” The meeting also addressed “issues of producing much organic manure of good quality and fertilizing fields and the issues for relevant units to help the socialist rural countryside materially and technically.”
Pak’s visit to the textile mill and his tour around South Hwanghae Province marked his first inspection tour since his reappointment as DPRK Premier (he previously held the job from 2003-2007) at the 7th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly on 1 April 2013. Pak is maintaining the same public profile as his predecessor, Choe Yong Rim, who conducted dozens of inspection tours of economic sites in the DPRK and held many meetings with local officials.
DPRK state media reported on 27 March (Wednesday) that DPRK Cabinet Premier Choe Yong Rim toured the Jangjae Islet and Mu Islet Hero Defense Detachments. Choe toured the bases on the islets and visited the living quarters and other facilities of Korean People’s Army service members deployed to the islet defense detachments. According to KCNA Choe “stressed that there is nothing to be afraid of even though tens of millions of enemies come in attack as long as there is the dear respected Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un in the van of the revolution” and “noted that no one can escape the strike by the powerful revolutionary Mt. Paektu (Paektusan) army to mercilessly sweep away the hotbed of evils if the enemies continue the reckless saber-rattling.” Choe said that “the army and people of the DPRK have now turned out as one in the all-out action with the U.S. imperialists because the sovereignty of the nation is more valuable than their own lives.” In his inspection of the living facilities on the islets, according to KCNA, Choe Yong Rim “learned about problems urgently essential for improving the material and cultured lives of the soldiers as well as those issues arising in turning the detachments into impregnable fortresses, and pressed for necessary measures.”
DPRK state media reported on 27 March (Wednesday) that the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau publicized a decision on 26 March (Tuesday) to convene a plenary meeting (plenum) of the KWP Central Committee in “late March” to “to discuss and decide an important issue for victoriously advancing the Korean revolution and make a drastic turn in accomplishing the Chuch’e revolutionary cause under the banner of the great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism.” According to the Political Bureau’s decision “now the party members, service personnel and all other people have turned out in the just struggle against the U.S. and efforts for building a socialist economic power with a great honor and pride of having the dear respected Kim Jong Un at the head of the WPK and the revolution and with confidence of the final victory” and that “we have a sacred task to closely unite around Kim Jong Un in single mind, display the might of the great Mt. Paektu (Paektusan) nation all over the world, defend the dignity of the nation and sovereignty of the country and build a thriving socialist nation, thus accomplishing the Juche revolutionary cause started in Mt. Paektu.”
Until the early 1990s, the Party Central Committee held plenary meetings (plenums) twice a year. It is likely that the Party Central Committee will meet one or two days prior to the convocation of the 7th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly, scheduled for 1 April 2013. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Party Central Committee meetings were convened prior to SPA sessions.