The North Koran regime has promoted a relatively obscure general to vice marshal a day after abruptly dismissing the army chief. The official KCNA news agency on Tuesday said Hyon Yong-chol was promoted to the post of vice marshal a day after the firing of Ri Yong-ho, who held the same rank.
A government official here speculated that the promotion was the first step to Hyon's eventual rise to the vacant post as army chief.
Hyon first appeared on the radar of South Korean intelligence after then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promoted him to the rank of general along with his son Kim Jong-un, Jong-un's aunt Kim Kyong-hui, Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the General Political Bureau of the People's Army, Choe Bu-il, deputy chief of the military, and Kim Kyong-ok, first vice director of the Workers Party.
That order first brought present leader Kim Jong-un to the attention of the world, a Unification Ministry official said. "The fact that Hyon's name was part of the list demonstrates his stature," the official added. All six generals are now key officials behind Kim Jong-un.
But a government official here said Hyon does not have the same clout in the military as Ri, who rose through the ranks as a field commander and was renowned as an artillery specialist.
"We will have to wait and see whether he will be able to fill Ri's shoes or will remain a puppet" for Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Song-taek and Choe Ryong-hae, who ousted Ri, the official added.