North Korea appears to have appointed a new Minister of People’s Security, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said Thursday, with Kim Jong Ho reported to have replaced Choe Pu Il as one of the country’s top officials responsible for domestic policing and security.
The potential reshuffle, revealed in the MOU’s updated 2020 DPRK leadership organogram, is yet to be officially confirmed, added to the ministry.
They instead reflect “estimates based on the characteristics of the positions and the subjects’ background,” an MOU official told NK News on Friday.
The leadership shuffle, if confirmed, will see Kim Jong Ho — a relatively unknown figure — replace Choe, who had served in the position since 2013.
An official named Kim Jong Ho appeared in 2017 serving as the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces (KPISF) Lieutenant General, later receiving the Order of Kim Jong Il in February 2019 and being promoted to Korean People’s Army (KPA) “major general” two months later.
Kim was also reported to have been newly elected to the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee (CC) at December’s ruling party Plenary Meeting.
Kim’s predecessor as minister, Choe Pu Il, was also appointed a central committee department director at that plenum, though state media did not specify which department he now heads, as is convention.
South Korea’s unification ministry this week said that the U.S.-sanctioned Choe may have been appointed as a director of the party’s military department, while adding that further information was needed to assess whether that office had been shut down or renamed.
But despite the MOU’s claims, one expert said there was still not enough evidence to confirm the promotion.
“Unless we missed something that was available in DPRK print or broadcast media outlets, I am not sure there is sufficient evidence as of now to suggest that Kim Jong Ho has replaced Choe Pu Il as minister of People’s Security,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
“The only piece of evidence we have of Kim’s promotion is that he was elected as a full member of the party Central Committee at the December party plenum. That may mean he received another new title, but it may not. We need to keep watching to be sure.”
The Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) is primarily responsible for policing non-political crimes, in contrast with the Ministry of State Security (MSS), which deals primarily with political and ideological offenses.
It reports directly under the State Affairs Commission (SAC) — North Korea’s primarily executive decision-making body — alongside the MSS and the country’s armed forces.
The MOU leadership chart 2020, which aggregated outcomes of last year’s April Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) session, two party plenums, and December’s Central Military Commission (CMC) meeting, also contained other details about possible organizational changes among North Korea’s top brass.
The historic city of Kaesong appears to have been promoted to “Special City (특별시)” alongside Pyongyang, Nampho, and Rason, according to the ministry.
Ri Pyong Chol — a top official known to have been closely involved in the DPRK nuclear program — is now believed to be heading the party’s Munitions Industry Department, it said, reflecting his recent promotion to a full member of the party Politburo, a party CC vice-chairman, and a party department director.
Former DPRK ambassador Kim Hyong Jun is also believed to now be heading the party’s International Department, a promotion confirmed by NK News last month.
Edited by Oliver Hotham