North Korean state media confirmed that Pak Yong Sik is the current minister of the People’s Armed Forces on Saturday.
Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency referred to Pak by the title of Minister of the People’s Armed Forces for the first time in a report on Saturday about on talks between military delegations of North Korea and Laos. Pak was the senior North Korean military officer at the talks.
This report confirms Pak’s status as People’s Armed Forces minister, which has been suspected since late May, when Pak began to be listed by name in state media reports just after Hwang Pyong So – director of the Korean People’s Army General Political Bureau – and ahead of Ri Yong Gil – chief of the KPA General Staff.
Pak replaced Hyon Yong Chol in the post after Hyon’s reported purge, and possible execution, in late May. Hyon held the post since June 2014.
Pak previously served as a department director in the Ministry of People’s, the organization responsible for internal security in North Korea. Pak also served as deputy director of the KPA General Political Bureau, the organization responsible for political oversight of the military and party control of the KPA and may have also served in the Workers’ Party of Korea Organization & Guidance Department. He was promoted to the rank of four-star general in May, around the same time he became People’s Armed Forces Minister.
The appointment of Pak as People’s Armed Forces Minister may be related to the reason for his predecessor Hyon’s removal, which is believed to have been the result of an effort by the Workers’ Party of Korea to more strongly exert its dominance and control over the military. Hyon had a been career military officer whereas Pak’s background is not merely within the party, but in the OGD and the KPA General Political Bureau, both of which are organizations responsible for ensuring loyalty to the party and regime.
Another KCNA report on Sunday additionally revealed that No Kwang Chol, a colonel general in the KPA, is the new first vice minister of the People’s Armed Forces, replacing So Hong Chan. So Hong Chan, also a colonel general, served as first vice minister in MPAF since November 2013. So’s current position is unknown, but he has not been removed from the senior ranks and may have been given a new, higher-level post. He has appeared twice alongside Kim Jong Un in the past week, including at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on Wednesday, July 8, the anniversary of the death of Kim Il Sung.
Both KCNA reports which confirmed these position changes were about a visiting military delegation from Laos, led by Lao Defense Minister Sengnouane Sayalat, which arrived in Pyongyang Friday. Military-to-military relations and other international military delegations and diplomacy are among the primary duties of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces.
Featured image: KCNA
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