North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un was on Wednesday awarded the title of Marshal, the top commander of the Communist nation's 1.2-million-strong Army.
"A decision was made to award the title of Marshal of the DPRK (North Korea) to Kim Jong-un, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a brief report.
The announcement came a day after Army chief Ri Yong-ho was removed from all his posts citing illness and a little-known General, Hyun Yong-chol, had been promoted to the rank of Vice-Marshal.
Senior South Korean officials interpret the abrupt departure of Ri as the first political purge by Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be reconfiguring the North's power structure to solidify the powers he inherited following the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December last.
The appointment, which came only two years after Kim was awarded the title of a four-star General in September 2010, is also seen to assert his domination over his reclusive country as well as the military, reports South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoting a government official. "The latest action is very symbolic," the official said. "It is meaningful in that Kim is firming his grip over the entire North (through the advancement) following the dismissal of Ri Yong-ho."
Meanwhile, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak directed top defense, intelligence and foreign-affairs officials to keep a close watch on the North and to work closely with other nations regarding the recent personnel shifts. "Since the sudden dismissal of an influential military figure in the North is not something usual, (the President) received reports on the latest news of the North's power circle and the military," an official from the presidential office said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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