North Korea's Kim Jong-il cements 'military first' stand with key appointments
North Korea's Kim Jong-il gave son Kim Jong-un a military as well as a political role. The emphasis on military appointments in the politburo fortifies the 'military-first policy.'
Seoul, South Korea
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Kim Jong-un was named vice chairman of the party’s military commission along with Ri Yong-ho, who still outranks him as chief of the North Korean Army’s general staff, at the party’s “historic” conference on Tuesday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday.
The appointments solidify Kim Jong-un’s rise as a military figure who’s in line to inherit his father’s power. Kim Jong-il is chairman of the party’s military commission – and rules as chairman of the real center of power, the National Defense Commission, an entirely separate entity in charge of the North’s military establishment of 1.1 million troops.
Related: 5 key people to watch in North Korea
The emphasis on military appointments fortified the "military-first policy" that has dominated the regime for the past few years, but analysts also say the conference has renewed traditional emphasis on the importance of the party.
“For the past 10 years the role of the party has increased,” says Baek Seung-joo, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. “Now the party’s role is increasing. The party will play an active role in governing North Korea.”
KCNA stressed the military significance of the conference, the first of its kind in 44 years, at which, it said, delegates were told to fulfill the policy of “songun” or military first. The conference, said KCNA, “demonstrated the revolutionary faith and will of all the party members, service persons and people.”
Kim Jong-un was not named, however, as a member of the party politburo, which his father leads as general secretary. Rather, he had to settle for membership on the central committee of the party – a decision by his father that is seen as a reflection on his youth and a bow to his need for experience before rising to full power.