February 05, 2016 12:43
Kim Yong-chol, a military hardliner newly appointed to head the North Korean Workers Party office dealing with cross-border affairs, was shown in civilian clothes in the country's state media on Thursday.
The switch from uniform to mufti backs intelligence reports that Kim Yong-chol has replaced United Front Department chief Kim Yang-gon, who died in a mysterious car accident in December last year.
Kim Yong-chol was in charge of the sinking of a South Korean Navy corvette in 2010. His ascendancy suggests that the old military hardliners are regaining the upper hand in internal power struggles.
The Rodong Sinmun daily featured a photo on Thursday showing a meeting between party officials and military brass earlier this week in which Kim was wearing a Mao suit and sitting with other party secretaries.
"Kim Yong-chol has not officially been confirmed as head of the United Front Department, but the fact that he is sitting amongst Workers Party secretaries indicates his new position," a Unification Ministry official here said.
Kim was last seen in uniform at the start of the year, when he paid his respects at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the embalmed remains of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are displayed.
Kim is also apparently responsible for the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, cyber attacks against a South Korean bank in 2011 and box mine attack last year that maimed two South Korean soldiers.
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