Kim consolidates leadership by taking top military role
FEARS THAT North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might fall foul of a coup attempt by military hardliners now seem banished, as the young leader consolidated his hold on North Korea by appointing himself to the top military rank of marshal days after purging the army chief.
“A decision was made to confer the title of marshal upon comrade Kim Jong-un, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a “crucial report” broadcast at noon yesterday. The decision was made at the top levels of the government and the military, it said.
It further secures his grip on power in the isolated and impoverished state that has a 1.2 million-strong army.
Mr Kim, who is thought to be in his late 20s, has had a busy few days as he imposes his stamp on the leadership of the secretive Stalinist enclave. On Sunday he ousted vice-marshal Ri Yong-ho, the country’s leading military figure, who was seen as close to his father, Kim Jong-il.
It was followed by the promotion of relatively unknown military man Hyon Yong-chol to the rank of vice-marshal. “The personality cult surrounding Kim family has been really shifted to Kim Jong- un,” said Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group.
Mr Kim’s new title comes seven months after he became head of the totalitarian state following the death of his father in December. He has worked to bolster his public image while rebuffing Western appeals to abandon the country’s nuclear weapons development.
The new title completes his elevation following the death of his father. He already heads the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairs the National Defence Commission.
Educated in Switzerland, Mr Kim was born in 1983 or 1984 to Kim Jong-il’s late wife, a Japanese-born professional dancer Ko Yong- hui. Beyond that little is known about him, although it was recently revealed that he has a wife and child, and he allowed pictures of his wife to appear on public media.
Mr Kim is the latest in his family to assume power in the world’s only Communist dynasty, a lineage that stretches back to his grandfather, Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung, who founded North Korea and is still revered as its eternal president. Only Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and father held the highest rank of grand marshal in the army.
The move was greeted with caution in China, which is the North’s sole meaningful ally.
Relations between North and South Korea have deteriorated badly in the past few years and China is emerging as the region’s “honest broker” in efforts to secure peace.