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Han Kwang Sang Affirmed as KWP Department Director

25 Sep
Han Kwang Sang (annotated) attends Kim Jong Un's recent visit to the Ryugyo'ng Dental Hospital (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Han Kwang Sang (annotated) attends Kim Jong Un’s recent visit to the Ryugyo’ng Dental Hospital (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

DPRK state media has identified central party finance and accounting cadre Han Kwang Sang as a Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Department Director.  In a 23 September (Monday) report about Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visit to the construction of the Ryugyo’ng Dental Hospital in Pyongyang, Han was identified as “department director of the Central Committee of the WPK [KWP].”  KCNA did not disclose what department Han is directing, but it is highly likely he is serving as head of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department where has served as senior deputy (1st vice) director since 2010.  In late June an unnamed ROK Government source told Yonhap that Han had been appointed department director in May 2012.

The KWP Finance and Accounting Department manages the finances of the party and those of the Kim Family.  It also manages logistics and supplies for departments, offices, sections, etc., in the KWP Central Committee (i.e. the central party) and is responsible for the payroll and the distribution of benefits and perks to central party employees.  Staff of the Finance and Accounting Department also work as domestic, technical and logistical staff at residential compounds for the Kim Family and other DPRK elites, and the department is also responsible for supplying furniture, building materials, appliances and foodstuffs to the DPRK’s VIP compounds.  The Finance and Accounting Department owns a series of hotels, restaurants, factories and shops (both within the country and located abroad) which generate revenues for the party.  The department has taken a leading role in the development, opening and management of new restaurants, shopping centers and factories in and around Pyongyang since 2009.  According to Kyodo News Office #38, which had been subordinate to the Finance and Accounting Department, was consolidated into a larger entity called “the Moranbong Bureau,” under the DPRK Cabinet.  If this report is accurate then Han Kwang Sang had a leading role in the consolidation. The department links directly with the Guard Command and Kim Jong Un’s executive office in the National Defense Commission.  It is unclear what role the department, or Han Kang Sang, has in the rumored establishment of a powerful KWP Department of Economy.

Graphic of key organizations in the KWP Finance and Accounting Department (Photo: NK Leadership Watch)

Graphic of key organizations in the KWP Finance and Accounting Department (Photo: NK Leadership Watch)

Han’s Call Order in DPRK state media

Between April 2012 and May 2012 the order in which Han Kwang Sang’s name was listed in KCNA reports and called in state radio and television broadcasts appeared with other central party department directors and was listed or called ahead of senior deputy and deputy directors.  At Kim Jong Un’s field inspection of Korean People’s Army [KPA] Unit # 655 in April 2012 Han Kwang Sang was listed between Kim Kyong Ok (Senor Deputy Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department) and Ri Jae Il (Senor Deputy Director of the KWP Propaganda and Agitation Department).  When Han next appeared in state media at Kim Jong Un’s May 2012 visit to the Central Zoo, he was listed after Kim Yang Gon (KWP Secretary and Director of the United Front Department) and ahead of Ri Jae Il.  In August 2012, in a news item on Kim Jong Un’s visit to Haemaji Restaurant, Han Kwang Sang was listed after Han Kwang Bok (Director of the KWP Science and Education Department) and before Kim Kyong Ok.  At a visit later the same day, Han was listed between Paek Se Pong, Chairman of the Second Economy Commission [Second Economic Committee] which is equivalent to KWP Department Director, and Han Kwang Bok.

Expanded Meeting of the Party Central Military Commission Held

27 Aug
Kim Jong Un presides over an expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un presides over an expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

DPRK state media reported on 25 August (Sunday) that an expanded meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Military Commission [CMC] was held.  The meeting’s venue and date was not publicized.  Attending the meeting were CMC Members, members of the executive board of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] KWP Committee, commanding officers of the KPA’s service branches and KPA corps commanders.  According to KCNA, the meeting “discussed and decided upon practical issues of bolstering up the combat capability of the revolutionary armed forces and increasing the defence capability of the country in every way as required by prevailing situation and the present conditions of the People’s Army.”  Also discussed during the meeting was an “organizational matter” which most likely refers to personnel changes (appointments and dismissals) on the CMC.  At the end of the CMC meeting, according to KCNA, Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) “made an important concluding speech which would serve as guidelines for firmly protecting the sovereignty and security of the country and promoting the cause of the Military-First (So’ngun) revolution of the party.”

Kim Jong Un speaks at an expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un speaks at an expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Overview of the expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting in August 2013 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Overview of the expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting in August 2013 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Graphic of current members of the Party Central Military Commission (Photo: Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

Graphic of current members of the Party Central Military Commission (Photo: Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

The last expanded CMC meeting was held in early February 2013.  This CMC meeting, along with a meeting of the KWP Political Bureau held on 12 February 2013, affirmed the DPRK central leadership’s decision to conduct a third experimental nuclear detonation, which occurred on 12 February at the test site in P’unggye-ri, Kilju County, North Hamgyo’ng Province.  According to a 22 August report in Dong-a Ilbo, which cited “informed sources on North Korea,” command of military operations during war or a national crisis have been transferred from the DPRK National Defense Commission to the CMC.  The news report also claimed that the decision to declare a war, or national crisis, was subject to a collective decision of the CMC, the NDC and KPA Supreme Command; previously the Supreme Command had sole authority to declare a war.  According to Dong-a Ilbo, “experts judge that this change is meant to promote the formality of the organizations of supreme authority making collective decision through consultations.”

DPRK state media reported on 25 August (Sunday) that Kim Jong Un attended a banquet hosted by the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces to mark the 53rd anniversary of the Military-First (So’ngun) Revolutionary Leadership.  The banquet was attended by members of the CMC, the NDC, senior KPA officials and KPA service branch and corps unit commanders.  VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Director of the KPA General Political Department delivered a speech.  VMar Choe referred to Kim Jong Un having published a treatise on Military-First leadership in the 25 August 2013 editions of Rodong Sinmun and Joson Inmingun.  According to KCNA Choe also said:

Kim Jong Un dedicated his everything to bolstering up the military capability by making endless trips to forefront posts and units including the Kkachilbong post on Mt. Oso’ng, saying the road of Songun covered by the great Generalissimos all their lives is the journeys to be made by him. Thanks to his energetic Songun leadership, the country greeted the golden days of the army building and great events took place on this land one after another, striking the world people with admiration.

Our army and people will build a reunified, prosperous and the strongest country and a land of bliss for people where loud shouts of hurrah for the WPK will ring out on this land at an early date by intensifying the drive for displaying the “Speed on Masik Pass” on all fronts for the building of a thriving nation.

During the banquet, attendees toasted to the health of Kim Jong Un, described as representing “the destiny, future and ever-victorious banner of the great Mt. Paektu (Paektusan) power.”

Kim Jong Un Attends Moranbong Band Concert with FLW Anniversary Parade Participants

4 Aug
Kim Jong Un (2nd R) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (3rd R) watch  a Moranbong Band concert with participants in the anniversary military parade and demonstration (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un (2nd R) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (3rd R) watch a Moranbong Band concert with participants in the anniversary military parade and demonstration (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

DPRK state media reported on 3 August (Saturday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) attended a concert given for participants in the military parade and demonstration (held on 27 July) to mark the 60th anniversary of the termination of active hostilities of the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War).  Kim Jong Un was joined by his wife Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu), along with VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau and ex aequo 1st Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff), Mun Kyong Dok (Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Committee), Col. Gen. O Il Jong (Director of the KWP Military Affairs Department), Kim Kyong Ok (Senior Deputy [1st Vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department) and Gen. Kim Yong Chol (Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff and Chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau).  Kim Jong Un’s last observed appearance was his attendance at a commemorative photo session with war veterans and parade participants.  Ri Sol Ju’s last observed appearance was at her husband’s guidance of the flight drills of KPA Air and anti-Air Force Unit #1017.

Overview of a Moranbong Band concert given for participants in the 27 July 2013 military parade and demonstration marking the 60th anniversary of the termination of the Fatherland Liberation War's (Korean War) active hostilities (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Overview of a Moranbong Band concert given for participants in the 27 July 2013 military parade and demonstration marking the 60th anniversary of the termination of the Fatherland Liberation War’s (Korean War) active hostilities (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

The Moranbong Band perform during a concert for participants in the war anniversary military parade and demonstration (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

The Moranbong Band perform during a concert for participants in the war anniversary military parade and demonstration (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

After entering the concert venue to the audience’s cheers, Kim Jong Un “warmly congratulated the participants in the military parade on fully demonstrating the spirit of Military-First (So’ngun) Korea to surely build a thriving socialist nation on this land shining the undying exploits the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng) and Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) performed by winning the victory in the war and their feats performed by achieving the victory in the Military-First (So’ngun) revolution.”  The concert began with the national anthem and the program included “Go All Out for Victory in the War,”  “Mungyong Pass,” “Tell, Fireworks of Victory,” “Long Live Generalissimo Kim Il Sung,” “Tribute to Victors in Great Annals,” and “July 27 March.”  According to KCNA the Moranbong Band “impressively showed that the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War was a victory of the Chuch’e-oriented military idea, distinguished strategy and tactics and superb commanding art of President Kim Il Sung and it was a shining victory of the might of the unity and cohesion of the army and people of the DPRK closely united around the party and the leader and their indomitable spirit.”  According to KCNA when images of Kim Il Sung, late DPRK President and founder, appeared on the screen along with footage of him giving a speech the audience “broke into loud applause and was overwhelmed with excitement.”  When the song “The Leader Whom We Entrust to Destiny” was played and an image of Kim Jong Un was projected, the audience “overcome with excitement rose from their seats and enthusiastically clapped their hands and sang in chorus, shaking the theatre.”

After the performance Kim Jong Un waved to the Moranbong Band members and to the audience, “congratulating the artistes on their successful performance.”  According to KCNA Kim Jong Un “expressed great expectation and belief that the participants in the military parade would discharge their sacred missions and duties in the struggle to defend socialism and the drive to build a thriving nation in the same heroic fighting spirit as displayed in the 1950s.”

New Director of Party Finance and Accounting Department (revised)

24 Jul
Han Kwang Sang (standing behind KJU, L) has been appointed director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department (Photo: NK Leadership Watch/Rodong Sinmun file photo).

Han Kwang Sang (standing behind KJU, L) has been appointed director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department (Photo: NK Leadership Watch/Rodong Sinmun file photo).

According to ROK media, citing anonymous sources and observations in DPRK state media, Han Kwang Sang has been promoted to director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Finance and Accounting Department.  The Finance and Accounting Department is part of the central party apparatus which manages the finances of the party and the Kim Family.  It also is responsible for the payroll and material lives of party officials and employees.

From 2009 to 2013 Han served as the department’s senior deputy (1st Vice) director, as the nominal head of Office #38 which manages the Kim Family’s finances.  He made his first observed appearance in January 2010, when he accompanied late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) on a guidance tour of the renovation of the Hyangsan Hotel.  His public appearances traveling with Kim Jong Il increased after the succession of Kim Jong Un was widely publicized in September 2010, even though his attendance was not always noted state media reporting.  Han has been a fairly routine member of Kim Jong Un’s entourage during his visits and inspections around the country.

Han Kwang Sang (annotated) attends Kim Jong Il's (C) January 2010 guidance tour of the Hyangsan Hotel.  Also seen in attendance is KWP Deputy Department Director and architect Ma Won Chun (R) (Photo: KCNA)

Han Kwang Sang (annotated) attends Kim Jong Il’s (C) January 2010 guidance tour of the Hyangsan Hotel. Also seen in attendance is KWP Deputy Department Director and architect Ma Won Chun (R) (Photo: KCNA)

Han Kwang Sang (standing, 3rd R) attended late leader Kim Jong Il's meeting with PRC Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai, held  on 31 October 2011 (Photo: PRC Embassy in the DPRK).

Han Kwang Sang (standing, 3rd R) attended late leader Kim Jong Il’s meeting with PRC Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai, held on 31 October 2011 (Photo: PRC Embassy in the DPRK).

Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed official in a 21 July (Sunday) report about Han’s promotion who said “Han Kwang-sang, first vice director of the Finance and Accounting Department, who emerged with the appearance of Kim Jong Un, looks to have been promoted to director of the Finance and Accounting Department around May of last year.”  Yonhap also used the order in which officials who accompany the leader are called or listed in state media reports, noting that Han was previously called after Kim Kyong Ok, Senior Deputy (1st Vice) Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department.  A ROK government official told Yonhap that”if Han Kwang-sang is introduced before Kim Kyo’ng-ok, he is highly likely to be at the director level,” adding that “there is no first vice director who is introduced before Kim Kyo’ng-ok, first vice director of the party’s Organization and Guidance Department, who has more power than passable WPK directors.”

According to Yonhap‘s report notes that the Finance and Accounting Department has been without a formal director since the removal from office of Ri Pong Su following the 2004 death of his chief patron Ko Yong Hui, Kim Jong Il’s fourth wife and mother of current leader Kim Jong Il.  Ri, an alias, replaced Ro Myong Gun (Ro Myo’ng-kun) who had served as director of Finance and Accounting since the department was established on Kim Jong Il’s order in 1983.  Since Ri Pong Su’s dismissal, and given individual and organizational behavior in the DPRK’s political culture, Kim Jong Il himself probably assumed the directorship and ran the department through its deputy directors.  During 2003 to 2012, deputy directors (with different portfolios) of the Finance and Accounting Department have included Han Kwang Sang, Jon Il Chun, Kim Tong Un and Ri Kwang Gun (currently head of the Joint Venture and Investment Commission).  Kim Hyo was also a cadre in the department, as of one KJI’s main accountants, and his daughter Kim Ok, KJI’s widow as his 5th wife and technical secretary, had close ties to the department (and access to its safes).  The change in leadership of the Finance and Accounting Department may be tied to rumors that Kim Hyo and Kim Ok were recently dismissed from office.

Kim Jong Un Visits Mushroom Farm

16 Jul
Kim Jong Un tours a mushroom farm constructed by farm #1116, subordinate to KPA Unit #534 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un tours a mushroom farm constructed by farm #1116, subordinate to KPA Unit #534 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

DPRK state media reported on 15 July (Monday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited a mushroom farm constructed by unit #1116, subordinate to Korean People’s Army [KPA] Unit #534.  Among those attending the visit with him were VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the KPA General Political Department), Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok (1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Han Kwang Sang (Deputy [Vice] Director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department), Kim Kyong Ok (Senior Deputy [1st Vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department with the portfolio for military affairs), Hwang Pyong So (Deputy Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department) and Ma Won Chun (Deputy [Vice] Director of the KWP Administration Department).  Kim Jong Un’s last observed appearance was his visit to the renovated Victorious Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War) Museum in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un tours a mushroom farm constructed by an agricultural unit subordinate to KPA Unit #534 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un tours a mushroom farm constructed by an agricultural unit subordinate to KPA Unit #534 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un tours a mushroom farm recently constructed by a unit subordinate to KPA Unit #534 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un tours a mushroom farm recently constructed by a unit subordinate to KPA Unit #534 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un issues instructions to senior KPA officials and commanders of KPA Unit #534 during a tour of a mushroom farm recently constructed by the unit (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un issues instructions to senior KPA officials and commanders of KPA Unit #534 during a tour of a mushroom farm recently constructed by the unit (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un began his trip with a briefing about the mushroom farm’s construction in front of a map of the farm.  According to KCNA Kim Jong Un said, “The mushroom cultivation grounds look very nice and I am pleased to see them” and “praised the unit for having built the indoor cultivation grounds by a dry method of construction through the introduction of latest technology for making the mushroom production intensive while using a minimum area for production in a matter of a few months, in particular.”  He enquired about the production of capacity of the mushroom farm and said he “was pleased among other things that the farm is capable of reaping a high and secure harvest of mushroom even in a small area by producing mushroom all the year round unlike arch-style mushroom cultivation grounds.”  He visited the farm’s control room and, according to KCNA, “was satisfied to learn that the farm has automated a monitoring and control system whereby the growth of mushrooms at every cultivation ground is monitored and production is commanded in real time.”  He toured the cultivation area and said “that production can be increased when fungi are cultivated by an industrial method” and that “it is good that the farm produces mushroom at both arch-style mushroom grounds and indoor cultivation grounds built by a dry method of construction” then called ” forarmy and society to build mushroom farms in a big way by following the example set by this farm.”

Kim Jong Un also remarked that “it is necessary to thoroughly implement the behest of President Kim Il Sung, who called for turning the country into a world famous mushroom producer by building such mushroom farms in different parts of the country” and “underlining the need to provide a standard design in order to build modern mushroom farms and scrupulously organize a work for introducing mushroom cultivation technique and experience, he took measures to this end.”  After his tour of the mushroom farm, Kim Jong Un attended a commemorative photo-op with the farm’s managers and employees.

Kim Jong Un Visits Ku’msusan Palace

8 Jul
Kim Jong Un (6th L) visits the Ku'msusan Palace of the Sun with senior DPRK officials on 8 July 2013, the 19th anniversary of the death of his paternal grandfather, late DPRK founder and president Kim Il Sung (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un (6th L) visits the Ku’msusan Palace of the Sun with senior DPRK officials on 8 July 2013, the 19th anniversary of the death of his paternal grandfather, late DPRK founder and president Kim Il Sung (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun at midnight KST on 8 July (Monday) to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the death of his grandfather, DPRK founder and President Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng).  He was accompanied by senior DPRK government and Korean People’s Army [KPA] officials including VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the KPA General Political Department), Pak Pong Ju (DPRK Premier), Jang Song Taek (Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Administration Department and Kim Il Sung’s son-in-law), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Gen. Kim Wo’n-hong (Minister of State Security), VMar Hyon Chol Hae (Member of the KWP Political Bureau and Member of the KWP Central Military Commission), Gen. Choe Pu Il (Minister of People’s Security), Ju Kyu Chang (Director of the KWP Machine-Building Industry Department) and Kim Kyong Ok (Senior Deputy [1st Vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department with the portfolio for military affairs).  Kim Jong Un’s last observed appearance was his visit to the Kangdong Precision Machine Plant.

Kim Jong Un and the members of the core leadership accompanying him first entered a hall containing the statues of Kim Il Sung and late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il.  Floral baskets from Kim Jong Un and from the National Defense Commission and Party Central Military Commission were placed in front of the statues.  Kim Jong Un “and his companions” bowed in respect to the statues.  They visited the chamber containing Kim Il Sung’s preserved remains and bowed to him “in humblest reverence,” according to KCNA.  Kim Jong Un and the core elites visited a memorial hall and an exhibition of state titles, awards and various honors given to Kim Il Sung, as well as a display of the railway coach and sedan used by the late DPRK President.  Kim Jong Un then visited the chamber containing the preserved remains of his father, late leader Kim Jong Il “to make a bow to him in humblest reverence together with the companions.”  After visiting KJI’s remains, they proceeded to visit a display of the various titles, awards and honors KJI accumulated and an exhibition of one of KJI’s private railway coaches, his private boat, his black Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan and an electric cart he used in later years.

An honor guard of the Korean People's Army's three service branches and the Worker-Peasant Red Guards stand in attention in a hall containing the statues of DPRK President and founder Kim Il Sung (1912-1994) and his son Kim Jong Il (1941-2011) at the Ku'msusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on 8 July 2013 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

An honor guard of the Korean People’s Army’s three service branches and the Worker-Peasant Red Guards stand in attention in a hall containing the statues of DPRK President and founder Kim Il Sung (1912-1994) and his son Kim Jong Il (1941-2011) at the Ku’msusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on 8 July 2013 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik Lands at KPA General Staff

23 May
Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (annotated in a yellow box) was part of a group that saw off VMar Choe Ryong Hae (1) and a senior DPRK delegation on a trip to China at Pyongyang Airport on 22 May 2013.  Also seen in attendance is PRC Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai (2) (Photo: KCNA)

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (annotated in a yellow box) was part of a group that saw off VMar Choe Ryong Hae (1) and a senior DPRK delegation on a trip to China at Pyongyang Airport on 22 May 2013. Also seen in attendance is PRC Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai (2) (Photo: KCNA)

Two weeks after being removed from office as the DPRK’s defense minister, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik has been appointed Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff.  Gen. Kim had been appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, the country’s equivalent to defense minister, in November 2012 and held that position until early May 2013.  On 13 May, DPRK state media identified Gen. Jang Jong Nam  as Minister of the PAF.  Gen. Kim’s removal from office, after only seven months in the position, caused a feverish amount of speculation among Pyongyang watchers some of whom interpreted his removal from office as a “purge.”  Gen. Kim replaces Gen. Hyon Yong Chol, who was appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff in July 2013 after the removal of VMar Ri Yong Ho.  There is no word as to whether Gen. Hyon was dismissed with prejudice or if he had been assigned another position in the KPA.  One of Gen. Hyon’s last observed appearances was in late April 2013 when he attended Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visit to the Haedanghwa Health Complex in Pyongyang.

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik was identified as the new head of the KPA General Staff in a Korean Central Television report about VMar Choe Ryong Hae’s 22 May (Wednesday) departure from Pyongyang Airport to visit China as the “special envoy of Kim Jong Un.”  Gen. Kim previous served as Chief of the KPA General Staff from 2007 to 2009.  He is the second DPRK elite to be appointed to a senior position that he previously held; the other member of the central leadership to be reappointed to his old job was Pak Pong Ju, who was appointed DPRK Cabinet Premier on 1 April 2013, having served as DPRK Premier from 2003-2007.  2007 was the same year that Kim Jong Un became a viable candidate as the late leader Kim Jong Il’s hereditary successor.

Kim Kyok Sik’s replacing Hyon Yong Chol marks the third senior KPA personnel turnover in two weeks (with Jang Jong Nam replacing Kim at MPAF, and Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok replacing VMar Hyon Chol Hae as 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), and the eighth observed personnel change to the KPA’s high command since Kim Jong Un formally assumed the supreme leadership in January 2012.  Pyongyang watchers might be forgiven if they find themselves reaching for the Dramamine with the latest change at the top of the KPA.  Finding an easy rationale behind these personnel changes would be, to paraphrase one of our most astute Kumsusanologists, “shallow and misleading.”

Graphic illustrating personnel changes in the senior command of the Korean People's Army [KPA] from 2007 to 2013 (Photo: M. Madden/NK Leadership Watch)

Graphic illustrating personnel changes in the senior command of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] from 2007 to 2013 (Photo: M. Madden/NK Leadership Watch)

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