North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (pictured) was elected the general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Chairman Kim celebrated his tenth year in office this year, and his new title might be a means to secure his status as the supreme leader of the party and the state, as well as to display his confidence in his regime throughout North Korea.
On January 11, the Rodong Sinmun reported that “A decision to select comrade Kim Jong-un as the general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea was adopted unanimously,” in a meeting on the sixth day of the eighth party congress the previous day. On January 9, North Korea revised the party charter and returned the organization of the party from one centered on the party chairman to one centered on the party secretary.
Therefore, Chairman Kim Jong-un’s position inside the party has changed from the first secretary in his early days in office to party chairman in 2016 and now after five years to general secretary. By granting the title of general secretary, which was bestowed upon his predecessor Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un has clearly stated his position as the head of the party.
Unlike expectations that Kim Yo-jong, first deputy director and the younger sister of Kim Jong-un, would strengthen her status in the party congress, she was excluded from the candidates for the party’s Political Bureau. Her name was not on the list of party directors, either. But experts believe that her political position, as part of the “Mount Paektu bloodline” and the actual “second-in-command,” is secure regardless of any changes or lack of changes to her official position.
In the latest party congress, Jo Yong-won, first deputy director of the party’s Organization and Guidance Department and also a very close aide to Kim Jong-un, joined the Presidium of the Political Bureau, a surprising move that pushed him up to the fifth most powerful position. There was a generation shift among the party leaders as Vice Chairman Pak Pong-ju, who turned 82 this year, stepped down from all his positions.
There were also changes to the officials overseeing affairs with South Korea and the United States. Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol, a hardliner on inter-Korean affairs, returned to head the Unification Front Department, and Choe Son-hui, first vice minister of foreign affairs, was demoted from a member of the party’s Central Committee to a candidate member.
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