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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 205 (April 12, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

Kim Jong-un Named Top Post of Workers' Party, Consolidating Grip on Power

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's young new leader, Kim Jong-un, was named on April 11 to a newly-created top post in the North's ruling Workers' Party, further consolidating his grip on power since his father's death in December.

   Kim, who is believed to be in his late 20s, was appointed "first secretary" of the North's all-powerful ruling party at a crucial party conference held earlier in the day, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   Kim's late father, Kim Jong-il, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack, was also named the "eternal" general secretary of the party "in reflection of the unanimous will and desire of all the party members and other people," the KCNA said.

   The fourth conference of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) conference "decided to elect the dear respected Kim Jong-un as first secretary of the WPK true to the behests of leader Kim Jong-il," it said.

   The young Kim's ascension to the party's top post was widely expected, but analysts in Seoul said he was given a new top title to wield power over the party while retaining his late father's "dying wish."

   In addition to the top party post, the new leader was named to fill two key party posts previously held by his father.

   According to state media, Kim Jong-un is now chairman of the ruling party's Central Military Commission and a standing member of the WPK Political Bureau. The new titles are likely to bolster the authority of the young leader by stressing his status as dynastic successor.

   Kim Jong-un now has become a member of Presidium of the WPK Political Bureau, which currently has only three members and two vacancies created by the deaths of Kim Jong-il and high-ranking military official Jo Myong-rok, who died in November 2010.

   The party conference was held as the socialist country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth on April 15 of founding leader Kim Il-sung, the late grandfather of the current leader.

   Kim Jong-un was unveiled as his father's chosen successor at a similar party conference in September 2010.

   The party conference and a separate parliamentary session scheduled for April 13 are widely seen by experts as the last steps to complete the process to extend the Kim dynasty for a third generation, from North Korean founder Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un.

   Party delegates also approved a reshuffle of the party leadership, electing a new generation of officials to key posts.

   Choe Ryong-hae emerged a rising figure. He was named as a member of the powerful Presidium of the WPK Political Bureau, joining three high-ranking officials already serving on the executive body.

   Choe, who is in his early 60s and recently was promoted to vice marshal, was also named a vice chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission, the KCNA reported.

   Six others were named to members of the WPK Political Bureau, including Jang Song-thaek, the husband of Kim Jong-il's sister Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-gak, minister of People's Armed Forces, and Kim Won-hong, minister of State Security.

   The immortalization of Kim Jong-il has provided a glimpse into how North Korea will treat the nation's second hereditary succession. After Kim Il-sung died in 1994, he was declared the country's "eternal president," and Kim Jong-il ruled as chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC).

   Kim may also become chairman of the NDC unless the title is reserved eternally for Kim Jong-il, in a similar way Kim Il-sung remains president nearly 18 years after his 1994 death.

   The latest party conference was held in the presence of Kim Jong-un. Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) made an opening address, while Premier Choe Yong-rim presided as chairman.

   The conference decided on the following agenda items, according to the KCNA's English-language dispatch: "1. On holding Kim Jong-il in high esteem as eternal general secretary of the WPK and glorifying his revolutionary career and undying revolutionary feats for all ages. 2. On the revision of the WPK rules. 3. On electing the dear respected Kim Jong-un to the top post of the WPK, true to the behest of Kim Jong-il. 4. On the organizational matter. members, service persons and other people throughout the country."

   In the third agenda item, the conference declared that First Secretary of the WPK Kim Jong-un was elected as a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, a member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and as chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission, "according to the WPK rules and detailed rules on the election of the supreme guidance body of the WPK."

   The fourth agenda item filled vacant posts and made new appointments. A member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee was elected to fill a vacancy and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee were recalled and elected to fill other vacancies, the KNCA said.

   Secretaries of the WPK Central Committee were also recalled and elected to fill vacancies. Similarly, a vice chairman was elected for the WPK Central Military Commission and members recalled and elected to fill vacancies.

   Members and alternate members of the WPK Central Committee were also recalled and elected and department directors appointed for the WPK Central Committee. Members of the WPK Central Auditing Commission were similarly recalled and elected.

   The party conference is being watched closely by regional officials and analysts as it could offer a rare glimpse into an unfolding political drama following the December death of long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

   Kim Jong-il assumed the post of the party's general secretary in 1997, three years after the death of his father Kim Il-sung, the country's founder.

   The North has been stepping up its propaganda campaign to boost the image and power of its new leader.

   North Korea's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper on April 11 urged citizens to unite around leader Kim Jong-un and thoroughly establish his unified command system.

   "All party members and workers should deeply learn the greatness of dear respected comrade Kim Jong-un and faithfully follow his leadership," the newspaper said in an editorial.

   North Korea also recently promoted Choe Ryong-hae, a party official and son of a former defense chief Choe Hyun, and Hyon Chol-hae, a defense official, to become vice marshals of the KPA.

   A KCNA dispatch on April 10 also revealed that Kim Jong-gak, a senior military officer and a member of the WPK Political Bureau, had been named as the People's Armed Forces Minister, a title equivalent to defense minister. Two other senior officials were promoted to vice marshals as part of a reshuffle ahead of the party conference and legislative meeting.

   The KCNA also introduced a group of party officials appointed to key posts relatively recently.

   In addition to Choe Ryong-hae, Kim Jong-gak, and Jang Song-thaek, who has been vice chairman of the NDC and director of the Administration Department of the WPK Central Committee since June 2010, O Kuk-ryol, who has been vice chairman of the NDC since February 2009, has become an alternate member of the WPK Political Bureau; and Ro Tu-chol, vice premier of the Cabinet and concurrently chairman of the State Planning Commission since April 2009, is another alternate member of the WPK Political Bureau.

   Also an alternate for the Political Bureau is Ri Pyong-sam, who has been director of the Political Bureau of the (North) Korean People's Internal Security Forces and concurrently chief secretary of its party committee since May 2009. Jo Yon-jun, another alternate member, has been first-vice department director of the Organizational Leadership Department of the WPK Central Committee since January 2012.

  (END)
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