North Korea has promoted a general long seen as a rising star in the country’s powerful military and a crucial player in its missile programme, to one of the country’s most powerful decision-making bodies, according to state media.
Pak Jong Chon will take up a position in the presidium of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and will also serve as secretary of the party’s Central Committee, the KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday.
In recent years, Pak has been promoted to a full four-star Army general, led the military as chief of the general staff of the army, and made prominent appearances alongside leader Kim Jong Un, including on a famous horse ride up North Korea’s sacred Mt Paektu.
Analysts have attributed his rise in part to his role in developing North Korea’s short-range missile programme, which has surged forward since Kim suspended long-range ballistic missile tests in 2018 amid talks with the United States.
In July, Kim accused officials of causing a “great crisis” with unspecified coronavirus lapses. North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the virus, nor has it elaborated on what the crises or lapses were.
Pak appears to have replaced Ri Pyong Chol, another powerful general, on the presidium, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Analysts say the reshuffle is the most significant personnel change among the core elite in years, and a probable warning from Kim that he will hold them accountable and maintain checks on their power.
Rim Kwang Il, who served as head of North Korea’s military intelligence agency, was named as chief of the general staff of the army, while army general Jang Jong Nam was elected as the Minister of Social Security, KCNA said on Tuesday.
The country’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the isolated state’s rubber-stamp parliament, will meet later this month to discuss economic policy and other issues, according to state media, as the country faces mounting economic crises.
On the agenda for the September 28 meeting are “modification and supplementation” of the national economic plan, as well as laws related to city and country development, education and recycling.
North Korea’s economy suffered its biggest contraction in 23 years in 2020 as it was battered by continued UN sanctions, Covid-19 lockdown measures and bad weather.