News / Asia

    North Korea Dismisses Top Military Leader

    SEOUL — North Korea has announced the removal of its military chief, a key advisor to leader Kim Jong Un.

    In a surprise radio announcement Monday, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho has been removed from all this posts because of illness.

    The radio announcer said the decision was made by the Workers' Party central committee political bureau and included the removal of Ri from the presidium of the politburo, considered North Korea's most powerful body.

    Ri became head of North Korea's army three years ago.

    The terse announcement caught officials and analysts in South Korea by surprise.  They note Pyongyang rarely removes top figures for health reasons.

    Kim Hyung-suk is a spokesman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul, which oversees North-South relations.

    Kim terms it as "very unusual" the announcement was broadcast less than a day after Ri was removed from his posts.  He says South Korea's government has no more to say at this point and it is closely monitoring the situation for further information.

    Analyst Chon Hyun-joon, a senior researcher at Seoul's state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification, contends that even if the 70-year-old Ri is actually ill, he would not have been dismissed from all of his positions.

    Chon says there is no doubt Ri, a hardliner, lost a power struggle with moderates.  The analyst says this denotes a collapse of one of the supports for the military - the other axis being the political chief of the army.

    Chon predicts the change will allow Kim Jong Un to proceed with a more flexible diplomatic policy.

    Ri, a third generation member of Pyongyang's elite inner circle, served in top positions under Kim Jong Il.  He was one of the eight who walked alongside the late leader's hearse during the December 28, 2011 funeral procession.

    Ri was last seen in public accompanying Kim Jong Un on July 8, during a commemoration of the death of the country's founder Kim Il Sung - the grandfather of the current leader.

    Since the junior Kim took power his military increased its bellicose rhetoric towards the South.

    The country also failed to launch what it claimed was a peaceful earth-observation satellite.  The United States and its allies contend it was a ballistic missile launch April 13th that went awry.

    An additional factor for the high tensions on the Korean peninsula is the North's nuclear-weapons development.  There has been speculation that with the leadership change the impoverished country would soon conduct a third atomic test.

    The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations.  They fought a three-year war to a stalemate in the early 1950's.  Since then the United States has maintained a significant military presence in the South.

    Steve Herman

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

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Don
    July 16, 2012 12:05 PM
    removed because of illness = They took him out and shot him.
    In Response

    by: Matt from: Salt Lake City, UT
    July 16, 2012 3:37 PM
    Death is a very serious illness. Really impedes your work.

    by: Jack Manning from: Metro Detroit
    July 16, 2012 11:44 AM
    Also another reason for dismissal was that his hat didn't fit right and kept falling down over his face.

    by: Witness from: Syria
    July 16, 2012 11:17 AM
    North Korea is to China, as Israel is to the United States.... Just an extension of power under a different name... Without each super-power, the country in question could not exist.
    In Response

    by: Michael from: United States
    July 16, 2012 4:07 PM
    Absolutely correct, despite what the know nothings might say.
    In Response

    by: Zippy from: Sweden
    July 16, 2012 12:54 PM
    You forgot as Syria is to Russia.
    In Response

    by: Yuriy from: U.S.
    July 16, 2012 12:42 PM
    Wow that's stupid. Israel existed without U.S. for 20 years. In fact people in the U.S. were arrested for giving Israel help.
    In Response

    by: Joe from: America
    July 16, 2012 12:04 PM
    Wow a comment like that from a country that dosent know its ass from its head. Keep talking moron.

    by: douglas finlayson from: chicago
    July 16, 2012 10:43 AM
    I knew something like this was coming. Anybody who likes Minny Mouse and Goofy must be a nice person inside.
    Whats next? Freeing the slaves? Tourism? T-shirt factories?
    In Response

    by: Tom from: USA
    July 16, 2012 12:36 PM
    What are you talking about Douglas?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.