April 13, 2018 10:28
The North Korean military is keeping a low profile ahead of summits with South Korea and the U.S.
Kim Jong-gak, the top military officer and the chief of the Army politburo, was not elected as a vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission in a session of the Supreme People's Assembly on Wednesday.
The names of military officers were called much later at the rubber-stamp parliament, after all the other officials had been called, a sign that the military's status has nosedived.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been engaged in a struggle to bring the unruly military under control after it acquired massive powers under his father Kim Jong-il’s military-first doctrine.
Late last year, the regime dismissed Hwang Pyong-so, the former chief of the Army politburo, from the vice chairmanship of the State Affairs Commission and appointed Kim Jong-gak a member of the commission.
Chaired by Kim Jong-un, the commission is the successor to the National Defense Commission, the top power apparatus under Kim Jong-il.
It consists of three vice chairmen, each representing the party, the government, and the military. But Kim Jong-gak failed to get a seat even though he is the top military officer.
A researcher with a government-funded think tank here speculated, "Last year, the Workers Party's Organization and Guidance Department inspected the Army politburo, and now the status of its chief has plummeted. The regime is clearly trying to deflate the military ahead of upcoming summits."
Airing pre-recorded footage of the SPA session Thursday, state TV called the names of senior party and government officials first, and then those of military officers. Previously it used to list them all mixed up but in the order of seniority.
Kim Jong-un has not visited any military units this year but watched a massive parade marking the Army’s foundation day on Feb. 8.
According to the Unification Ministry, Kim was engaged in military-related activities 11 times on average during the same period every year from 2012 to 2017.
On his surprise visit to China on March 25-28, he was also not accompanied by any brass.
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