North changes called reform stepAt the 11th session of the Supreme People’s Assembly earlier this month, North Korea reworked the leadership structure of the Kim Jong-il regime. While top military brass remained largely unchanged, the cabinet saw a large overhaul, reflecting Pyeongyang’s will to succeed in its attempts at economic reform.
At the center of the leadership was the National Defense Commission, chaired by Mr. Kim. Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, first vice chairman, and Vice Marshal Kim Yong-chun, chief of staff of the People’s Army, retained their posts at the defense commission, which controls the North’s 1.17 million-member force. By maintaining the structure of its military leadership, North Korea demonstrated its intention to stay its current course in tackling nuclear issues, experts in Seoul said.
In contrast, a major reshuffle took place in the cabinet. Pak Bong-ju, a pragmatist who had been serving as chemical industry minister, was appointed as prime minister, replacing Hong Song-nam.
Mr. Park, 64, began his career in 1962 as manager of a food plant. In 1980, he made his public debut when he was elected a member of the central committee of the Workers’ Party. He developed his career in the party while working for 10 years for a party secretary in charge of a chemical plant in South Pyeongan province. In 1994, he was ranked 188th on the communist state’s list of its most powerful officials. In 1998, he was elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North’s most powerful legislative body, and was also appointed minister of chemical industry that year. He received a Kim Il Sung medal in March last year for his achievements.
Mr. Park visited South Korea in October 2002 as a member of an economic survey team. South Korean officials said he seemed an honest and numbers-savvy person. “He had the logistics of almost all our factory equipment already memorized,” a Seoul official said.
A new generation of economic officials was appointed to the cabinet. North Korea replaced its core members of the National Planning Commission and heads of the Ministry of Metal and Machine-building Industries, the Ministry of Extractive Industries and the Ministry of Chemical Industry.
“North Korea appointed to the major posts those who have achieved tangible successes,” Ham Sung-wook, a professor of North Korea studies at Korea University, said. “Such a lineup shows that the North seeks to accelerate its reform.”
by Lee Dong-hyun, Ko Soo-suk
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