North Korea has appointed a new vice minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Kim Jong Gwan (김정관). The Korean Central News Agency referred to Kim by this title in two reports published Friday about Kim Jong Un giving field guidance at the May Day Stadium and Wisong Scientists Street in Pyongyang.
Kim joins four others – Kang Phyo Yong, Kim Su Gil, Pyon In Son and Yun Tong Hyon – in the post of vice minister. So Hong Chan holds the more senior position of first vice minister and Jang Jong Nam is the minister of the People’s Armed Forces.
The Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces is North Korea’s defense ministry and is responsible for administrative operation of the Korean People’s Army and coordinating between the military and other organizations. This includes representing the Korean People’s Army in any military-to-military relations with foreign countries. It is not responsible for actual operational control of units, which is the role of the KPA General Staff department.
Kim Jong Gwan has been a lieutenant general in the KPA since at least January. In December of last year he was awarded the Order of Kim Jong Il, the second-highest order in the DPRK after the Order of Kim Il Sung.
Kim appears to have a professional background related to construction, especially by the military. Excluding the conferment of his award, all of his state media appearances have been at the site of ongoing construction projects or at ceremonies following their completion. He gave a speech at the ground-breaking ceremony for a shopping mall in east Pyongyang in January, appeared with Kim Jong Un at a photo session with soldier-builders in May, and just recently accompanied Kim Jong Un on two field guidance trips to construction sites.
In the aftermath of the collapse of an apartment building under construction in Pyongyang in mid-May, the North has somewhat reorganized the construction sector and consolidated responsibility and control under key officials such as Ma Won Chun, who was made head of the newly organized Designing Department of the National Defense Commission last month. Kim’s appointment as a vice minister in MPAF is likely part of this effort to improve oversight of military construction operations, this time placing a construction-related official in the military’s general administrative organ.
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