This week North Korea announced that Kim Jong Un has been promoted to the rank of marshal in the North Korean military, by the Korean Workers’ Party. Kim Jong Un, who is 29, now outranks the six vice-marshals in the military – Kim Jong Il, Jong Un’s father, was the previous marshal; the post was left vacant by his death. Marshal is the highest rank in the North Korean military. This comes in the same week that the Chief of Staff, Ri Yong Ho, a powerful military man, was sacked from his post. The Korean people’s army has 1.2 million troops. North Korea has suffered from famine, and its economy has been devastated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is almost completely isolated by international sanctions as it has a nuclear programme.
Kim Jong Il’s policy was to keep the generals happy by putting the military first. Commentators are viewing this as a sign that Kim Jong Un, previously thought weak and inexperienced, is consolidating his power. The move also shows, say analysts, that in order to have true control in the paranoid state, you need to control the army.
“The personality cult surrounding [the] Kim family has been really shifted to Kim Jong-eun,” said Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group, quoted on The Financial Times.
Might there be more change from North Korea?
These moves show the “extraordinary political instability” in North Korea, said Bill Powell on Time. Analysts are viewing it as a victory for the Korean Workers’ Party and Kim Jong Un – which might lead to “at least the possibility of change” in North Korea, which has previously been controlled by the military. It might lead to the end of “military first” policies – which might lead to more significant surprises from the young Kim Jong UN.
Kim Jong Un has many titles
The Associated Press noted all the titles that Kim Jong Un now had. He must have a big calling card. He’s Marshal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; he’s First Chairman of the National Defense Commission; First Secretary of the Workers’ Party; Chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission; Member of the Praesidium of the Party’s Political Bureau; Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. Cripes! But he’s not president of North Korea – that tiel belongs to his grandfather, the founder of the North Korean state, Kim Il Sung.
Kim Jong Un likes to laugh
The Financial Times reported that the young Kim has shown a “sharp change” – “at least on the surface” – to his father’s “dour rule.” Kim has been seen “laughing with fusty old generals, gesticulating in delight at a military parade and, the biggest shock of all, speaking in public.” His father’s gloomy appearance even inspired a Tumblr blog – Kim Jong Il Looking at Things.