Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
DPRK state media reported on 20 January (Monday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) attended and guided night jump exercises of Korean People’s Army [KPA] airborne personnel. Also attending the exercises were VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the KPA General Political Department), Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Col. Gen. Pyon In Son (Director of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik, Lt. Gen. Kim Su Gil (Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (Commander of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Forces), Col. Gen. Pak Jong Chon and Hwang Pyong So (Deputy [vice] Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Organization Guidance Department). Kim Jong Un’s last observed appearance was his attendance at a concert by the KPA Military Band.
According to KCNA, “the paratroopers showed the supreme commander their admirable actions of accurately landing on the designated points and occupying the ‘enemy’s position’ at one go by satisfactorily applying the combat ways and methods they cultivated in their day-to-day trainings.” Kim Jong Un said “the exercise was very successful” and “highly praised the combatants and airmen for successfully performing their difficult duties even under unfavorable night conditions.” He met the KPA personnel who participated in the exercises and “gave important instructions to raise a stronger wind of training just as the anti-Japanese guerrillas did in Mt. Paektu, underscoring the need for the KPA to put spurs to rounding off the combat preparedness, the main task for bolstering up the military capabilities of the KPA.” Kim Jong Un opined that “a war against the enemy is fought in the worst conditions” and underscored “the need for the soldiers to conduct training under the simulated conditions of a real war with high ideological awareness in order to satisfactorily perform their combat duties under any circumstances and conditions.”
This was one of the first observed mentions of Gen. Kim Kyok Sik since August 2013 when he was removed from office as Chief of the KPA General Staff. Although Gen. Kim has been observed in attendance at state events, the Party Central Military Commission member’s presence was not noted in DPRK state media reports. The former commander of the IV Army Corps and all armed forces deployed in the DPRK’s southwest, Gen. Kim was appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in November 2012, but left that position in April 2013. In May he was appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff, a position he previously held from 2007 to 2009.