North Korea, Kim’s number 2 torpedoed at military summit

Pak Jong Chon was removed from office

Kim Jong-un’s number two at the country’s military summit fired in North Korea. According to reports from the Pyongyang news agency KCNA, Pak Jong Chon was removed from his post as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party and general secretary of the central committee of the Party. No explanation was given for Pak’s removal, which occurred while the annual meeting of the central committee was underway, often used to announce leadership changes.

Pak was also absent from photos released today by KCNA of Kim’s New Year’s visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses the bodies of his grandfather and father, unlike in October, when the general accompanied Kim to the mausoleum for celebrations. for the anniversary of the party.

Pak’s replacement by Ri Yong Gil, former defense minister and chief of staff, came as the North Korean leader urged the development of new ICBMs and the strengthening of nuclear arsenals against the United States and South Korea.

By late 2020, Pak had been promoted to the politburo and earned the title of marshal, the highest military rank under Kim, becoming the leading voice last November against the joint South Korea-US military exercises. Like most other top military advisers who rise and fall in the North Korean leader’s sympathies, Pak was briefly downgraded in mid-2021 after Kim chastised some officials for their handling of anti-Covid policy, before being promoted again months after.

According to Oh Gyeong-sup, of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, the recent flare-up in inter-Korean tensions over the intrusion of North Korean drones in the south may have played a role in his torpedoing. Seoul officials said South Korea had sent three drones across the border in response to the intrusion, but there was no response from the North, which could mean it was unable to intercept the planes. “Pak may have taken responsibility for the failure of security operations,” Oh said.