Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - Page 6 News List

North Korean army chief ousted from all positions

GONE:The dismissal of Ri Yong-ho, which was reportedly made at a meeting of the Workers’ Party, could mark the start of a generational change in the country’s leadership

AP, Seoul

Ri’s departure could be the result of him losing a power struggle with rising star Choe Ryong-hae, the military’s top political officer tasked with supervising the army, said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

Choe, originally a Workers’ Party official, was handed several top jobs and was named a vice marshal in April. Ri had been anointed as Kim Jong-un’s patron during the young man’s rise to power, Koh said.

“But after Kim formally took power, Choe has emerged as No. 2,” he said.

The dismissal of the top army official is an especially significant move in North Korea. Kim Jong-il elevated the army’s role when he became leader after the 1994 death of his father, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-un has upheld his father’s songun military-first policy, but in April he also promoted younger officials with economic backgrounds to key party positions in line with his push to build up the nation’s economy.

In Seoul, Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the private South Korean think tank Sejong Institute, said he expected more ageing officials to be dismissed in the coming weeks, calling the move part of a “generational change.”

There was no mention of Ri’s dismissal in yesterday’s Rodong Sinmun, the North’s main newspaper.

In a photograph posted by state media on July 6, a healthy looking Ri was shown talking to people who had just moved into new housing in Pyongyang. He was also cited in state media as accompanying Kim Jong-un at public events as recently as last week.

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