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NK's Kim Jong-Un appoints THIRD army chief in less than two years

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a further demonstration of just how politically unstable North Korea is these days, young leader Kim Jong-Un has replaced a hard-line general who headed its armed forces ministry. General Jang Jong-nam has since been named "minister of the People's Armed Forces" by state news agency KCNA. He's the third official to take the role since Kim Jong-un formally assumed power in North Korea just over a year ago.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Jang, a relatively unknown general, had previously been commander of the First Corps of the Korean People's Army. Reports indicate that armed forces ministry chief Kim Kyok-sik, reputed to have been behind the 2010 shelling of a South Korean island that killed four people, had been replaced.

Kim Kyok-sik himself was only named armed forces minister last November. North Korea watchers believed that action was part of an effort to solidify the grip of North Korea's young leader over the army.
 
The post of minister of the armed forces is considered subordinate to the Army Chief of General Staff and its head of the Political Department.

Jang is one of a group of younger soldiers who are stepping up to replace men who grew up under the country's founder Kim Il-sung. The age of Jang is not yet known.

Frequent reappointments of top army figures have triggered speculation the 30-year old Kim Jong-un, the third of his family to rule North Korea, may be seeking to reassert the power of the Workers' Party of Korea over the country's generals.

The promotion of Gen. Jang Jong Nam at the expense of now ex-Chief Gen. Kim Kyok Sik is "not thought to indicate a potential softening of Pyongyang's stance toward Seoul and Washington any time soon," according to analysts.

"Outsiders do not know much about Jang, but analysts said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un would name a moderate to the post at a time of tension with the outside world."

"Officials in Seoul said they were aware of the personnel change, but would 'need more time to figure out the overall direction' and whether the change was significant.

"We do not know if [Jang] is a less hawkish figure, but it appears that he is from a younger generation," South Korean defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

"Just because there is a new dot that does not mean that a whole line or landscape changes," he added.

It's not the first time there have been high-level changes in the military since Kim assumed leadership of the country after his father's death in December 2011.

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