One of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s closest aides has unexpectedly been ousted from all party positions. North Korean media report that Ri Yong-ho, a standing member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party and Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, has been dismissed for his “illness.” Our Kim In-kyung has more.
Report: North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Monday that the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party met Sunday and agreed to dismiss Ri Yong-ho as a standing member of the bureau and from all other party posts. The news agency didn’t say whether Ri has also been dismissed from his military role as the Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army or whether a successor has been named.
The 70-year-old Ri is known to have played a key role in helping Kim Jong-un consolidate his power over the military after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
Ri was appointed vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission in September 2010 and has been regarded as a central figure in the North Korean military.
He was one of North Korea’s seven power elites who escorted Kim Jong-il’s hearse at his funeral in December along with Kim Jong-un and Chang Song-thaek, the deputy head of the National Defense Commission and Kim Jong-un’s uncle.
The news agency said Ri was dismissed because of his illness, but some analysts doubt that claim since the military chief was seen accompanying Kim Jong-un to a concert as late as July eighth. Some say he may have been brushed aside due to political reasons.
Chang Yong-suk is a senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies in Seoul. He said Ri may have been dismissed because Kim Jong-un blamed him for his incomplete grasp on the army or as a result of a power struggle in the North.