The regime replaced Kim Jong-gak as minister of the People’s Armed Forces after just seven months in the position.
He is replaced by Kim Kyok-shik, a general thought to be behind Pyongyang’s two deadly attacks against the South in 2010. He recently regained four-star status after being stripped of a star, reportedly due to damage incurred by Pyongyang during Seoul’s response to the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island that year.
Kim Jong-un has been shuffling his regime since taking power, with reports suggesting multiple officials were executed for inappropriate behavior during the mourning period for his father, Kim Jong-il, who died of heart failure in December.
The move has raised eyebrows given Kim Jong-gak’s short tenure and added fuel to the speculation the North Korean leader is in the final stages of establishing his power structure.
“There have been obvious signs that top military leaders are being replaced according to their allegiance,” an official was quoted as saying.
“One of the recent messages from (leader Kim) was that those without allegiance are nothing more than a stick. It appears they are rocking the military leadership depending on their allegiance.”
In July, Kim dismissed the chief of the military’s general staff, Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, and replaced him with Choe Yong-hae, said to have close ties to the ruling family.
New defense chief Gen. Kim Kyok-sik had been vice minister of the armed forces and an alternate member of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee.
Some observers raise the possibility that Kim’s moves to strip the military of its lucrative hold on export activities have rubbed several people the wrong way.
The moves raise questions about how far along the young Kim is in consolidating control over the military. Since taking power, he has attempted to revitalize the party and Cabinet, the entities seeking to update the North’s moribund economy after the military dominance of state affairs under his father.