Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
At a 30 December (Friday) meeting of Political Bureau of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee, Kim Jong Un was formally identified Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army [KPA]. The last reported (publicized) Political Bureau meeting occurred on 6 June 2011. KCNA published two separate items on the 30 December meeting. The first reported on KJU’s assumption of the position which occurred on 8 October 2011:
The dear respected Kim Jong Un vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, assumed the supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army at the behest of leader Kim Jong Il on Oct. 8 Juche 100 (2011).
A second item detailed the proceedings of the Political Bureau’s meeting. The first item on the agenda was the announcement of KJU’s appointment as KPA Supreme Commander, after this announcement KCNA reports that “all the participants stood up to welcome him with enthusiastic applause.” The remainder of the Political Bureau meeting, as reported by KCNA, focused on reviewing the joint calls of the Party Central Committee and Party Central Military Commission for the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth and the endorsement of a statement and general policy guidance under the heading of “On Affecting a Great Surge in Building a Thriving Nation True to the Behests of the Great Leader Kim Jong Il.” In the reading and execution of KJI’s will, the Political Bureau established Jong Un “as the only center of unity, cohesion and leadership of the WPK”:
Standing at the helm of the Korean revolution is Kim Jong Un, the only successor to Kim Jong Il, the decision said, calling upon all the party members, servicepersons and people to turn sorrow into thousand-fold strength and courage and more dynamically struggle to win a great fresh victory in the Juche revolution under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.
Underlining the need to hold Kim Jong Il in high esteem as the eternal leader of the WPK and revolution and glorify his sacred revolutionary life and undying revolutionary feats forever, the decision referred to the relevant decisions.
The decision also called for more dynamically accelerating the cause of building a thriving socialist nation true to the behests of Kim Jong Il.
It underlined the need to hold Kim Jong Un in high esteem as the only center of unity, cohesion and leadership of the WPK, devotedly defend him politically and ideologically and give fuller play to the might of the political and ideological power.
It called for giving fuller play to the might of the socialist military power and firmly defend the gains of revolution, invariably adhering to the Songun idea and the Songun revolutionary line of Kim Jong Il.
Stressing the need to make the torch lit by Kim Jong Il in South Hamgyong Province, the torch for the industrial revolution in the new century, flare up all over the country to effect a great surge in building a socialist economic power, the decision set forth relevant tasks.
The decision called for turning the country into a highly civilized power in the 21st century where Kim Jong Il ‘s Juche-based idea of cultural construction is blooming in all fields.
The meeting discussed the joint calls of the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the WPK on the centenary of birth of Kim Il Sung.
On or around 9 October, DPRK media reported that Kim Jong Il conducted guidance tours at a factory in P’yo’ngso’ng and at the Central Tree Nursery in the northern section of Pyongyang. It is likely these visits occurred on 7 or 8 October. If KJI was formulating and dictating final instructions and orders behind a potential power transfer, then the more relevant public appearance was his attendance of a concert by the U’nhasu Orchestra in central Pyongyang which was reported on 11 October.
This event gathered a number of key secretaries, party department directors and security officials. Images of the central leadership from that event show many of the same people whose names are currently being bandied about by Pyongyang watchers such as Kim Jong Gak and Ri Yong Ho. Also in attendance were Gen. Hyon Chol Hae and Gen. Pak Jae Gyong. Until their respective 2007 appointments to other positions, Gens. Hyon and Pak constituted two-thirds of the public face of the KPA Supreme Command’s apparatus. During the early 2000s, they were the most frequently reported members of KJI’s retinue. Approximately one week after secretly appointing Kim Jong Un as KPA Supreme Commander, KJI attended a concert by a KPA art squad, which Gens. Hyon and Pak were reported and photographed as having attended. Gens. Hyon and Pak would go on to attend a number of visits and inspections with KJI and Kim Jong Un from October into early December.
Between 17 October and his death in December, Kim Jong Il conducted eleven field inspections of KPA units; until mid-October KJI had only been reported as having inspected three KPA units. On 24 November the KPA Supreme Command published in DPRK media what it termed a report which denounced ROK exercises in the West Sea. On 26 November KJI was reported to have visited forward-deployed units under the IV Army Corps in South Hwanghae Province. During all of these military visits, included among senior officials identified by name, KJI was reported to have been accompanied “by staff members of the KPA Supreme Command.”