Kim Jong-un keeps job

April 9, 2014

kim jongunBy Chung Min-uck

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was re-elected as the first chairman of the country’s powerful National Defense Commission (NDC), Wednesday.

His re-election came during the first session of the North’s newly-elected Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), said the state-run North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim was initially chosen for the post during the session in 2012, after he inherited leadership of the nation from his father Kim Jong-il, following his death in 2011.

Kim Yong-nam remains the chairman of the Presidium of the SPA, while Choe Ryong-hae, currently joint chairman of the Politburo Presidium and political director of the North Korea People’s Army (KPA), was selected as vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, along with incumbents, Vice Marshal Ri Yong-mu and Gen. O Kuk-ryol.

Observers believe that the 31-year-old leader is effectively continuing to consolidate his power even after the execution in December of Jang Song-thaek, his uncle and a once-powerful political heavyweight.

Jang was executed on charges of treason but analysts viewed the decision as a move by Kim to put a check on rival factions. Jang was vice-chairman of the defense commission.

The state news agency described Kim’s re-election as a “historical incident that showed off the army and people’s unbending will to follow Kim Jong-un’s sole leadership and unite around the dear leader.”

The latest move came a month after Kim was elected to the SPA in uncontested nationwide elections along with 686 deputies. Pro-Jang factions were eliminated from the power structure and replaced with pro-Kim aides.

Meanwhile, during the session the SPA is also expected to name new defense commission members.

Although the assembly is a rubber-stamp body, it is used to designate key positions in the ruling Workers’ Party and the military, which form the backbone of the North’s leadership, and any changes in its structure.

The North’s single-chamber legislature is also used to approve government budgets and review important state policies.

The session is being closely watched by officials and analysts in South Korea and other regional powers because it comes after North Korea threatened to carry out a “new type” of nuclear test.

The North has a track record of carrying out nuclear tests within a month after its foreign ministry issues a statement in anger over U.N. condemnation of its long-range missile or rocket tests.

On Tuesday, Kim set forth important tasks to further strengthen the party and protect the dignity and sovereignty of the country as he presided over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, the KCNA reported.

“The meeting discussed the issue of reinforcing the organization for increasing the leadership role and function of the Party,” said the KCNA, Wednesday.

Participants also unanimously adopted decisions on relevant agenda items after discussing a proposal on forming a state leadership body to be submitted to a parliamentary session, it said.