The reshuffling of top military, party and government posts in North Korea continues as the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, seeks to surround himself with officials loyal directly to him and not his late father.
North Korean state media confirmed Thursday what foreign observers of the secretive regime had suspected for some time: that hard-line military chief Gen. Kim Kyok-sik had been sacked and replaced by Gen. Ri Yong-gil.
Ri was revealed as the new head of the general staff of the North’s Korean People’s Army in a Korean Central News Agency report listing the names of officials who went with Kim Jong Un to the mausoleum housing his father and grandfather to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the Worker’s Party.
Since rising to power following the death of Kim Jong Il in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has replaced nearly half of the country’s 218 top military, party and government officials, reports said, citing figures from the South Korean Unification Ministry.
At this stage, not a lot is known about Ri, who South Korean officials believe was appointed military chief in August. The Associated Press said he was a “commander of a frontline army corps and a top operation officer at the general staff.”
Even his exact age is a mystery. The Wall Street Journal said he is believed to be in his 60s.
It’s also not known what happened to 75-year-old Kim Kyok-sik, who is believed to have overseen the two attacks on South Korea in 2010 that killed 50 people.