Old Guard Regains Control of N.Korean Businesses

O Kuk-ryol O Kuk-ryol

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Song-taek, who was executed late last year, is being quickly replaced in most of his positions by O Kuk-ryol, the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.

A senior North Korean source on Sunday said O is gaining control of the financial operations of the National Defense Commission that was once managed by Jang as well as other business interests.

O has crucially gained control of agencies in charge of bringing in foreign currency such as a body created by Jang to develop an economic zone in Sinuiju near the border with China.

He has thus regained rights to the development of Rajin-Sonbong port, exports of seafood and gold mining that Jang stripped him of in 2010.

Radio Free Asia in the U.S. reported that companies managed by O have had exclusive control of LPG import licenses from China and Russia since Jang's execution.

O was photographed with Kim at an event celebrating the country's scientists on Dec. 13 and in the front row of guests four days later at a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il.

He is the son of a former North Korean partisan who fought against Japanese occupying forces from 1910 to 1945 and has served as Air Force and Army chief. But his powers weakened drastically since 2009, when Jang rose to become the eminence grise behind the throne.

Pundits say his resurgence is part of Kim's efforts to consolidate his power over the unruly military.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 20, 2014 09:41 KST