North Korea today announced that Kim Jong-un is now a 'marshal,' the highest military rank.
Seoul, South Korea
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un rose to the rank of marshal of his country Wednesday in the latest act of symbolism, evidently intended to show that he’s in charge seven months after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
North Korea’s state radio and TV networks disclosed the move around noon Korea time, after having told listeners and viewers to await “an important announcement.” The portentous nature of the advance notice gave the impression that a drastic overhaul in the power structure was under way. After all, the last time North Korea said an "important announcement" was coming at noon was Dec. 19, when a wailing woman in black delivered the news that Kim Jong-il had died two days earlier.
Instead, however, the news on Wednesday only served to reiterate that Kim Jong-un, to outward appearances, reigns supreme as successor to his father.
The urge to embellish Kim Jong-un’s image with a super-rank suggests to some experienced observers a sense of insecurity about the man, widely believed to be in his late 20s. “This is a reflection of instability,” says Kim Tae-woo, long-time military analyst here. “The most important interpretation is North Korea wants to establish the new leader.”
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Kim Jong-un’s military credentials are especially vulnerable since his father only named him a general in Sept. 2010.
His newest title represents, perhaps, a climactic move in a shake-up in which Ri Yong-ho, the chief of staff of the Korean People’s Army, which includes all of North Korea’s armed forces, was ousted. After Mr. Ri, a vice marshal, was “relieved,” another military leader, Hyon Yong-chol, was named a vice marshal – though it was not clear if he had replaced Mr. Ri as chief of staff.