Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Kim Jong Il “watched a combined exercise of Large Combined Unit 567 of the KPA staged on the occasion of the Day of the Sun.” He “mounted an observation platform” and received a briefing on the exercise.
After watching the exercise the unit conducted at a high level by fully embodying the Juche-oriented war method, he expressed great satisfaction over the fact that all the servicepersons of the unit are fully prepared politically and ideologically and in military technique to beat back any surprise attack of the enemy in time and defend the socialist country as firm as a rock.
He highly appreciated the success made in the exercise and set forth highly important tasks which would serve as guidelines for further bolstering up the KPA into ever-victorious revolutionary armed forces.
Kim Jong Il was joined by: NDC Vice Chairman and Minister of the People’s Armed Forces VMAR Kim Yong Chun; NDC Vice Chairman VMAR Ri Yong Mu; NDC Vice Chairman and Director of the NDC (KWP ) Operations Department General O Kuk Ryol; Chief of the KPA General Staff General Ri Yong Ho; NDC Member and Senior Deputy Director of the MPAF General Political Bureau, General Kim Jong Gak; NDC Member and Vice Minister of the PAF, VMAR Kim Il Chol; KWP Secretaries Jon Pyong Ho, Choe Thae Bok; and other senior officials of the KWP.
Watching the exercises with KJI were:
deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly, officials of party, armed forces and power organs, social organizations, ministries and national institutions, those in the fields of science, education, culture and arts, pubic heath and media here and commanding officers of various units of the KPA.
Kim Jong Il observed the military exercises while issuing promotions for 100 KPA general-grade officers. This was the largest 15 April Promotions List since 1997. Yonhap reports:
In a release carried by the KCNA, Kim issued an order promoting a group of 100 general-grade officers as part of efforts to commemorate his father’s birthday.
The promotion was the biggest in scale since 1997 when Kim Jong-il promoted 129 generals in an apparent bid to consolidate his grip on the military after he took over the regime from his father.
KCNA announced the names of some of the promotions. Pyongyang watchers have previously analyzed that some of the names listed by KCNA are rising late 2nd and 3rd generation KPA leaders:
The order noted that the military rank of U Tong Chuk, Jong Myong Do, Ri Pyong Chol and Jong Ho Gyun is promoted to general, that of Choe Kyong Song, Choe Sang Ryo, Han Chang Sun, Jon Chang Bok and O Chol San to colonel general, that of Ri Ju Hong, Kim Su Gil and six others to lieutenant general and that of Ham Ryong Chol, Son Kyong Bok and 81 others to major general.
According to the media reports, Kim Jong-il watched the combined drills by the Large Combined Unit 567 of the Korean People’s Army. The reports said Kim “mounted an observation platform” for the occasion and that he later offered guidelines that would help develop the North Korean military into a formidable force.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, Kim Jong-il visited one of the unit’s pig farms in January and met with the unit’s command in April 1999. The news agency also added that the 567 unit produced more than 100 “republic heroes” for their roles in victorious battles during the Korean War.
Choson Ilbo notes the attendance of General O Kuk Ryol in observing the military exercises and provides a background report of Gen. O:
O rarely makes public appearances although he has been handling operations against the South for nearly three decades and enjoyed the trust of both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
There is speculation that O’s presence could be linked to the unexplained sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. Ryu Dong-ryeol, a senior researcher at the Police Science Institute, said, “If the North was behind the sinking, O would most likely have supervised the attack, so perhaps he accompanied Kim as a reward for a successful operation.”
O worked as the director of the North Korean Workers’ Party’s Operations Department, an agency in charge of espionage operations against the South, from 1989 to 2009.