November 21, 2012 10:23
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been conducting extensive loyalty checks of senior party, government and military officials since April, a South Korean government official said Tuesday.
"Since Kim Jong-un assumed the top posts in the party, government and military in April, the regime has been conducting an inspection and loyalty check of key figures," the senior Unification Ministry official said.
"It seems that the inspection started in Pyongyang and has now spread to the provinces," the official said. Based on the outcome, officials are demoted, replaced or kept their current rank.
But he said this does not amount to a large-scale purge. It simply means that Kim is filling up key posts with loyalists to stabilize his leadership.
Checks of senior military officers have been underway since last month, possibly linked to the defection of a North Korean soldier from the Kaesong Industrial Complex area on Oct. 6 after killing his superiors, the ministry speculated.
Several top officers were demoted. They include vice marshal Hyon Yong-chol, Gen. Choe Pu-il and Gen. Kim Yong-chol.
The official said the demotions are not overly significant "The fact that they're still accompanying Kim Jong-un on his tours even after their demotion means that they're still in favor and will probably regain their previous rank in due time," he added.
Former Fourth Army Corps commander Gen. Kim Kyok-sik is believed to have been reinstated as a four-star general after a brief period with three stars. "He has been promoted to at least deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Army or even a higher post," he speculated.
An informed source said, "We're watching for the possibility of Kim Kyok-sik being promoted to an even senior position."
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