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N. Korea appears to have appointed new defense chief

2015/06/15 08:59

SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was accompanied by a four-star Army general, viewed as the country's new defense chief, on his visit to a military event, according to Pyongyang's media on Monday.

The Korean Central News Agency listed top military figures who were in attendance with Kim at the military's art performance, naming Pak Yong-sik just after Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political department of the Korean People's Army.

The report adds ammunition to speculation that Pak might have been promoted to the post of defense chief, replacing Hyon Yong-chol, who is believed to have been purged, experts said.

South Korea's spy agency said last month Hyon was apparently purged due to his disloyalty to Kim and he even might have been executed with an anti-aircraft gun.

On June 5, the North's Korean Central Television aired documentary footage showing Pak saluting the North's young leader at an event in late May in another indication that he may have been named the new defense minister.

There has been controversy over the credibility of the National Intelligence Agency's findings as Hyon appeared in TV documentary footage even after his alleged purge. Usually, North Korea immediately removes records and appearances of purged officials from all its newspapers and TV footage.

Pak, who was promoted to his current post from a three-star general in April, has been often seen in Kim's "field guidances."

   sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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