Jong-un has done a housecleaning, report says

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Jong-un has done a housecleaning, report says

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has replaced about half of his military top brass, cabinet and ruling party leaders, a South Korean government report said.

The Ministry of Unification in South Korea yesterday released an analysis of current political affairs in the North Korean regime, including a description of an extensive reshuffle in Kim’s inner circle.

In less than two years as leader, Kim has replaced a total of 97 out of 218 high-ranking officials in his party, cabinet and military hierarchy as of now, the report said.

In his first reshuffle, announced at a party meeting in April 2012, Kim promoted Choe Ryong-hae, a party secretary, his aunt Kim Kyong-hui and uncle Jang Song-thaek to new posts.

A series of economic specialists and technocrats were appointed in a second reshuffle announced at a party meeting last April, including a new prime minister, Pak Pong-ju.

Kim’s interest in the economy and industry has been demonstrated in the locations of his so-called field guidance trips. The number of visits to military bases dropped this year. Visits to military units accounted for 34.4 percent of Kim’s public activities last year, which dropped to 29.9 percent this year as of September. Visits to economic-related or industrial sites increased 31.2 percent.

The inner circle who accompanies Kim at public activities has also changed. In 2012, his uncle Jang accompanied Kim most frequently, 106 times based on reports by state media.

But this year, as of September, Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean People’s Army, accompanied him 112 times, surpassing Jang’s 49.

Top officials who frequently accompanied Kim on public outings in 2012 have mostly disappeared from such occasions this year. Except for his powerful guardians, uncle Jang and aunt Kim, a series of new figures have surfaced, including Pak Tae-song, deputy director of the ruling party’s Central Committee, whose career is shadowy.

The report said in 2012, Kim Jong-un maintained a “guarding group” of relatives, but he replaced most of them this year with new and younger officials, who are mostly in their 50s or 60s. Meanwhile, the military’s influence has waned.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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