Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
VMar Kim Jong Gak (Kim Cho’ng-gak) has been appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces [MPAF]. Kim was promoted from 4-star general (taejang) to Vice Marshal (ch’asu) on 15 February 2012. Four days after his promotion Kim penned an essay in Rodong Sinmun that praised Kim Jong Il and pledged the “unwavering faith” of KPA personnel to Kim Jong Un. Kim replaces VMar Kim Yong Chun, who was appointed minister in 2009.
From 2007 to 2012 VMar Kim served as senior deputy (1st vice) director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department [GPD](bureau), which is responsible for political control and ideological indoctrination of enlisted personnel and officers of the KPA. Prior to that Kim was a vice minister of the People’s Armed Forces. In 2009 Kim was elected a member of the National Defense Commission [NDC] and in 2010 he was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the Political Bureau and member of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC]. The position of GPD director has been vacant since the November 2010 death of VMar Jo Myong Rok (Cho Myo’ng-rok) and Kim’s February 2012 promotion initially suggested that he would be elevated to that position. Senior personnel changes at GPD are likely to become clearer as the next 72 hours unfold.
On 7 April (Saturday), the CMC and NDC issued a joint promotion order. KWP Secretary Choe Ryong Hae (Choe Ryo’ng-hae) and NDC Standing Committee Director Hyon Chol Hae were respectively elevated to Vice Marshal. Hyon Chol Hae received his fourth star in 1995. Despite having relatives who migrated to South Korea, neither his patronage network nor standing in the KPA has seemed to wane. Hyon was last reported and observed in attendance at Kim Jong Un’s inspections at Ryo Island and KPA Navy Unit #155 during 4-5 April 2012. Choe Ryong Hae was part of the September 2010 promotions list which included Kim Jong Un and Kim Kyong Hui (KJI’s sister/KJU’s aunt).
Choe has close ties to Jang Song Taek and during the 1980s to the 1990s was one of Kim Jong Il’s closest subordinates. Choe is the son of former defense minister Choe Hyon (1907-1982), who served as a platoon leader in the 88th Sniper Brigade (i.e. partisan unit). Choe Hyon was a key supporter of KJI’s succession in the 1970s, arguing that an eldest son is his father’s successor. On 10 April (Tuesday), Choe Ryong Hae led members of the central leadership to pay their respects to Choe Hyon’s memorial bust at the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery on Mt. Taesong. KCNA reports:
Wreaths were laid before the bust of Choe Hyon, a revolutionary martyr, at the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery on Mt. Taesong Tuesday on the occasion of his 30th death anniversary.
Seen before the bust was a wreath sent by the dear respected Kim Jong Un.
Present at the wreath-laying ceremony were Choe Ryong Hae, Ri Yong Ho, Kim Yong Chun, Choe Thae Bok, Yang Hyong Sop and O Kuk Ryol, officials of the party and armed forces bodies, ministries and national institutions, and media persons, servicepersons, bereaved
families and other people in the city.
Laid before the bust were wreaths in the name of the C.C., the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, the DPRK Cabinet, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, the Ministry of People’s Security, ministries, national institutions, media organs, units of the Korean People’s Army, the Pyongyang City Committee of the WPK, etc. Bouquets were also placed before the bust.
The participants observed a moment’s silence in memory of the martyr.
KCNA reported on Choe and Hyon’s promotions:
The title of Korean People’s Army Vice Marshal was awarded to Choe Ryong Hae and Hyon Chol Hae
A joint decision on awarding the title was released by the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the National Defence Commission of the DPRK on April 7.