Little known about new vice-marshal


THE ASCENT of Hyon Yong-chol to the position of vice-marshal of the Korean People’s Army has been carried in the ruling Workers’ Party main newspaper Rodong Sinmun. It followed the apparent dismissal of Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the North Korean military’s general staff and one of the highest members of the party.

Like so much in North Korea, Gen Hyon’s background remains mysterious.

He has been mentioned in only three despatches by the official KCNA news agency since 2008. Little is known about his education, background or age.

Local media said that Gen Hyon, who is thought to be in his early 60s, is considered an obscure military figure and he becomes chief of the general staff. He has served in the 8th Army Corps since 2006, which is in charge of guarding the communist state’s northwestern areas, including those near the border with China.

He first rose to prominence in 2007 and in 2010 he was named a “leader”, along with then-heir apparent Kim Jong-un. His place in the ruling elite was confirmed by being part of the official delegation at December’s funeral of Kim Jong-il.

Gen Hyon is now expected to assume key party posts such as member of the standing committee of the party’s politburo and of the party’s Central Military Commission, which have become empty since Mr Ri left.

There are said to be about 1,400 generals in North Korea, many of them in their 70s and 80s, but the young leader could be in the process of reducing the number of generals.