SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has replaced his defense chief with a hawkish general in a shakeup apparently aimed at tightening his grip over the military, a report said Nov. 29.
Vice Marshal Kim Jong-Gak was sacked as defense minister after just seven months in office, Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed senior South Korean presidential official as saying.
He was replaced by Kim Kyok-Sik, a hawkish general believed to have orchestrated the North’s sinking of a South Korean warship and an artillery attack on a border island in 2010, it said.
Analysts said the re-shuffle, if confirmed, is the latest in a series of top-level personnel changes ordered by Kim Jong-Un since taking over after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, a year ago.
“Kim has tightened his grip over the military by replacing top military generals with those loyal to him,” Yang Moo-Jin, a professor of the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.
In July, Hyon Yong-Chol, a little-known general, became chief of the general staff, a powerful post that controls the North’s 1.2-million-strong military.
He replaced Ri Yong-Ho, who had been regarded as one of Kim’s inner circle but was relieved of all his posts — officially because of “illness.”
Ri was a highly visible figure who helped support Kim following the death of his father, and his sudden departure sparked speculation that he might have been purged.