According to state media, Kim Jong Un of North Korea has fired the country’s second most powerful military officer.
Ri Yong Gil replaced Pak Jong Chon as vice chairman of Central Military Commission of Workers’ Party.
Pyongyang is known for its constant leadership changes, and this change was not justified.
This announcement was made during the annual meeting of the committee last week. It is often used for major policy decisions or personnel reshuffles.
On state television, Mr Pak was seen sitting in the front row with his head down during meetings. Later, his seat was empty.
Official news agency KCNA also published photos of Mr Kim’s New Year’s Day trip to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. Mr Pak was also absent.
This was different from October, when Mr accompanied Mr Kim to the palace to commemorate the party’s anniversary.
Kim demanded the development of intercontinental ballistic weapons and a larger arsenal of nuclear weapons to combat the United States and South Korea.
In five years, Mr. Pak rose quickly up the military ladder from a one star artillery commander to becoming a four-star general.
He was promoted to the political bureau in late 2020 and received the title of marshal. This is the highest military rank under Kim. He was credited with helping to develop the country’s short range missile technology and he was a prominent voice against US-South Korea military exercises last November.
Like other military aides, Mr Pak saw his status briefly reduced in the middle of 2021 after Mr Kim criticised some officials regarding their handling of North Korea‘s anticoronavirus policy. He was promoted once more months later.
Oh Gyeongsup, a Korean Institute for National Unification fellow, suggested that a recent flare up in inter-Korean tensions over the intrusion by North Korean drones into South Korea could have contributed to Mr Pak’s dismissal.
After no response, Mr Oh stated that three drones sent from South Korea to respond to the intrusion were not detected by North Korea.
“Pak might have accepted responsibility for the failure to secure operations,” Mr Oh stated.
Mr. Pak was dismissed despite Mr Kim praising the military’s progress in weapon development during the meeting. This is unlike other areas where Mr Kim pointed out faults and demanded improvement.