North Korea made numerous governmental position changes during a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly held on Wednesday, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
At the fourth session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly – the North’s rubber-stamp legislature – the SPA made formal changes to posts within the Presidium of the SPA, the Legislation Committee of the SPA, the Central Court (formerly the Supreme Court) the cabinet of the DPRK. Additionally, the National Defense Commission (NDC) was officially supplanted by the newly-created State Affairs Commission (SAC), to which a total of 12 members were appointed.
Three new vice premiers were appointed to the cabinet of the DPRK: Ri Ju O, Ri Ryong Nam, and Ko In Ho. Additionally, Ko was appointed minister of Agriculture.
Ri Ryong Nam also currently serves as minister of External Economic Affairs. He has held this post since June 2014 and before that as minister of Foreign Trade until the ministry was merged with other organizations and renamed. Ri Ju O previously served as minister of Light Industry from 2001 to 2010 and as a deputy department director in the secretariat of the cabinet.
Ko In Ho previously served as chairman of the Pyongyang City Rural Economic Committee. He also replaces Ri Chol Man as minister of Agriculture. Ri held the post since September 2013.
As of 2014, there were as many as seven vice premiers at once: Choe Yong Gon, Im Chol Ung, Kim Tok Hun, Kim Yong Jin, Ri Chol Man, Ri Mu Yong, Ro Tu Chol. It is uncertain if any of these vice premiers have been removed from the post since then. All have continued to be referenced in state media, though this title is not always used.
Thae Jong Su was removed the Presidium of the SPA “in connection with the transfer to other post.” Last month, at the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Thae was removed from his position as an alternate member (a.k.a. candidate member) of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.
Thae became a member of the SPA Presidium in April 2014, following the election of the 13th SPA the month prior. The Presidium serves as the smaller executive body of the SPA and legislates on its behalf on the full SPA is not in session. Born in 1936, Thae is now 80 years old and he is likely being given reduced responsibilities and moving toward effective retirement.
Three SPA members were elevated to the SPA Presidium: Kim Yong Chol, Pak Thae Song and Ju Yong Gil. Kim served a long career as a military officer, his final military post being as director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s military spy agency. In January, Kim became director of the United Front Department and thus Pyongyang’s point man on relations with the South. He was made a full member of the WPK Political Bureau in May.
Pak Thae Song is a deputy director in the WPK Organization & Guidance Department. He was made an alternate member of the Political Bureau last month. Ju Yong Gil has served as chairman of the Central Committee of the Federation of Trade Unions of Korea.
Pak Myong Chol was removed from his posts as president of the Supreme Court (renamed at this SPA session to Central Court) and as a member of the Legislation Committee of the SPA. He was replaced in both positions by Kang Yun Sok.
In addition to the changes made in existing entities, the SPA formally appointed 12 officials, including Kim Jong Un, to the newly-created State Affairs Commission, which supplanted the National Defense Commission.
SPA sessions are typically a time when North Korea makes multiple organizational and personnel changes within various government agencies. According to North Korea’s constitution, the SPA is officially the highest body in the DPRK government and is responsible for appointing leading officials in other agencies. In practice it is a rubber-stamp legislature and primarily formalizes decisions made by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, in this case at Seventh Congress of the WPK convened in early May.
Featured image: SPA members in session | Photo: Rodong Sinmun
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