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North Korea Leader Takes Top Army Rank

  • RFE/RL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, has been named "Marshal" of the country's army -- a title previously held by his father Kim Jong Il, who died last December.

Analysts say the development shows Kim is taking steps to reinforce his control over the army.

They say it also is a sign that he intends to rule the country as his father had done, as head of North Korea's million-man military.

On July 16, North Korea sacked its top military general -- Ri Young Ho.

State-run media reported that Ri had been removed from the post "because of illness." But there has been widespread skepticism over the official reason given for his sacking.

Many observers predicted that Ri was being pushed aside so that Kim would be able to take over his post.

Kim, who is thought to be in his twenties, was named as a general in September 2010. But analysts say he needed a new rank befitting a supreme commander after the death of his father.

Now, as the head of North Korea's army, analysts say Kim is positioned to tighten his grip on power and to project the image of a legitimate successor as head of the nuclear-armed state.

Previously, Kim had assumed almost all party and army positions -- leaving "Marshal" as the only title left to decorate himself with.

Since taking over as ruler in December, Kim has been purging the aged military leaders who were appointed by his father during the past two decades, including the former armed forces minister and the head of the secret police.

The decision to give Kim the title of "Marshal" was made by officials of several top state and party organs that he heads.

In addition to Kim's father, the title had also been held by his grandfather Kim II-Sung, who is considered to be the founding father of North Korea.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa