- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2013

North Korea has replaced its hard-line defense minister with a younger, little-known army general, state media indicated Monday, a move analysts see as an attempt by new leader Kim Jong-un to solidify his grip on the isolated communist state’s powerful military.

Word that Gen. Jang Jong-nam had replaced Gen. Kim Kyok-sik, believed to have directed two attacks on South Korea in 2010 that killed a total of 50 people, came in typically indirect fashion from Pyongyang’s state-controlled media.

There was no announcement of the replacement, rather the Korea Central News Agency simply listed Gen. Jang as the defense minister in a long catalogue of officials accompanying North Korea’s new 20-something hereditary leader Kim Jung-un to an art exhibit, according to multiple media sources.

Gen. Jang, believed to be in his fifties, was commander of the First Corps of the Korean People’s Army before assuming this role, the BBC reported.

Mr. Kim, the third generation of his family to hold power in the hermetic and crumbling Stalinist state, last year replaced the military’s chief of staff, Ri Yong Ho — another hardliner.

Analysts and South Korean officials cautioned against reading too much into the latest change, although many see Mr. Kim’s replacement of key personnel as an effort to rein in the military, which had a dominant role under his father, Kim Jong-il, the Wall Street Journal reported.


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