News / Asia

North Korea's Young Leader Gets New Title

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (File)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (File)
SEOUL — The young man who took the helm of North Korea following his father's death last December has been formally declared the country's top military leader.

North Koreans had been alerted an hour in advance to tune in at noon for important news. The previous time there had been such an announcement was on December 19 last year to announce the death of leader Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Un's Rise to Power

September 2010: Promoted to four-star general by his father, Kim Jong Il

December 2011: Kim Jong Il dies of a heart attack, leaving power to relatively inexperienced Kim Jong Un

February 2012: North Korea makes nuclear concessions in exchange for badly needed food aid from U.S.

April 2012: North Korea tries unsucessfully to launch rocket, leading U.S. to cancel food aid deal

May 2012: Pyongyang vows to continue developing its nuclear program, amid concerns it could conduct a third nuclear test

July 2012: Army chief Ri Yong Ho unexpectedly removed from his post because of undisclosed "illness," replaced by obscure general

July 2012: Formally declared head of North Korea's 1.2 million-strong military, effectively completing his succession to power
So anticipation was high, not only in North Korea, when the announcer opened the noon newscast.

The announcer said “a decision was made to award the title of Marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to Kim Jong Un, the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army."

The 45-second announcement was followed by state radio playing the song “We will defend General Kim Jong Un at the Risk of Our Lives.”

Kim is believed to be 29 years of age.

The promotion for Kim, previously named a four-star general and who already holds almost all top military and party positions, comes just days after army chief Ri Yong Ho was removed from all of his posts supposedly due to “illness.”

An obscure general, Hyun Yong Chol, was named Tuesday to replace Ri as vice marshal.

Kim came to power seven months ago following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who was the son of North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Il, who was also a marshal, was promoted in February, two months after his death, to generalissimo.

The changes are seen by analysts as an attempt to cement the hold on power by the third generation of the Kim family. But some analysts say the events of the last several days indicate conflict between the ruling family and the military - or even within the military, which has more than one million active personnel, making it the world's fourth largest army.

Baek Seung-joo is a senior researcher at the South Korean government-funded Korea Institute of Defense Analyses.

Baek says he thinks Kim was given the new title to solve issues from internal conflicts in the military and quell complaints or questions about whether he is really able to control the army. Baek adds it is timed to show North Koreans their young leader has absolute power and to demonstrate his status to the outside world.

Rival South Korea has not officially reacted to Kim's military promotion.

The publicly-funded Yonhap news agency, quotes unnamed South Korean officials as saying the decision appears to be an internal matter and no unusual moves by North Korea's army have been detected following the announcement.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Lost from: don't know
July 18, 2012 1:52 PM
"Decision was made to award" the new leader the title "Marshal." I must be sleeping for the last one hundred years, but the title is reserved to people with great achievement. Military titles are attained with bravery not awarded for appearance or bloodline.

by: Cả Thộn from: Hà Nội
July 18, 2012 12:13 PM
New man, young man, fresh new ideas may change N.Korea from bad to good. I keep my fringers cross for N.Korea.

by: zzj from: China
July 18, 2012 5:43 AM
Why Kim family can control the North Korea for so many years?I think if the young leader cannot work with the old who help his father settle the issue all the time successfully,it will be very dangerous for the system which the Kim family use to control people.In my opinion,the North Korea cannot advanced rapidly as long as the true democratic system exists.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 18, 2012 7:10 PM
Deng Xao Ping changed China rapidly.
Deng could do it, young Kim can do it too.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs