North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea has recently promoted two high-ranking officials. Hwang Pyong So and Ri Jae Il were both listed as First Deputy Director (or First Vice Director) of WPK departments in a March 21 KCNA report on Kim Jong Un visiting two hospitals.
While Ri has historically been more associated with Kim Jong Il’s era, having risen to the upper ranks of the party in the ’90s, he appears to be trusted by Kim Jong Un. Hwang, on the other hand, is a part of the “third-generation leadership” associated with the younger Kim.
Ri has most recently served as deputy director of the Propaganda & Agitation Department. Ri previously served as First Deputy Director of the same department from May 2004 until as late as November 2013, by which time he was replaced by Choe Hwi. If Ri’s new position is in the same department, it’s still unclear what Choe’s new job is. Choe was reelected to the Supreme People’s Assembly, so it’s unlikely he’s been ousted entirely. If he’s been promoted within the department, it would mean taking over Kim Ki Nam’s job as department director and, thus, it is unclear what happened to Kim, also reelected to the SPA.
Hwang has, until now, been deputy director of the Organization & Guidance Department (OGD). Hwang has quickly risen in prominence since Kim came to power. If Hwang has moved up within the OGD, it means he’s taken over the position from Jo Yon Jun. Jo, then, could have been promoted to director, a position which appears to have been vacant since the death of its last holder, Kim Jong Il.
It’s also possible that either one or both of these men have moved to another department, since the KCNA article did not name their current departments. Either scenario means that the two men continue to move up the party ranks and gain more influence in the regime. Further observation will reveal more about their exact positions and who else has moved where. The upcoming first session of the 13th SPA, to be convened on April 9, will likely formalize and reveal most new personnel changes in the regime.
Picture: Rodong Sinmun
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