Korean leader cements army control

Reuters

NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-un was named marshal of the army, the country’s top military rank, in a move that adds to his glittering array of titles and cements his power in the isolated and impoverished state that has a 1,2 million strong military.The decision was reported on Wednesday by North Korea’s state media. It comes after the country’s top general was purged.
The new title completes Kim Jong-un’s elevation following the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December. He already heads the Workers’ Party of Korea and is First Chairman of the National Defence Commission.
Kim — believed to be in his late 20s —has steadily worked to impose his own stamp on the top leadership of North Korea, and on Sunday ousted Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, the country’s leading military figure, who was seen as close to Kim Jong-il.
Key to Kim’s rule is a lineage that stretches back to his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who founded the North Korean state and is still revered as its eternal president.
“The personality cult surrounding Kim family has been really shifted to Kim Jong-un,” said Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group, who visited North Korea earlier this month and spoke to reporters in the South Korean capital on Tuesday.
The North suffered a famine in the 1990s, when Kim Jong-un’s father ruled, and its economy was devastated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major backer. It has been almost completely isolated by international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes. Kim Jong-un’s brief term in office since his father’s death is, at least on the surface, a sharp change from the former leader’s dour rule which took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression.
Experts says the latest moves have more to do with a shifting of the guards surrounding the young leader than any fundamental changes in policy.