North Korea has appointed an octogenarian apparatchik to the ejector seat of Army chief, it emerged on Sunday, in yet another sign that hardline dinosaurs are currently in the ascendant in internal power struggles.
Ri Myong-su (82) was minister of public security before being named the new chief of the Army General Staff.
Ri is the fifth man to hold the post since leader Kim Jong-un took power, and follows a sorry line of Ri Yong-ho (purged), Hyon Yong-chol (executed), Kim Kyok-sik (died), and Ri Yong-gil (executed).
He was identified by his new title in a report by the official Rodong Sinmun daily on Kim Jong-un’s inspection of a military drill.
His predecessor, Ri Yong-gil, was reportedly executed for forming a political faction, abuse of power and corruption.
The North Korean military is an unruly state within the state that came to disproportionate power under previous leader Kim Jong-il’s disastrous « military first » doctrine, and his son has apparently suffered a major setback in trying to bring it under control.
Ri Myong-su is regarded as a top strategist and was one of a « gang of three » (Ri Myong-su/Hyon Chol-hae/Pak Jae-kyong) who were close to former leader Kim Jong-il and shadowed him at public appearances since 1996. Ri Myong-su was also involved in the past in the management of some military companies in the construction sector. Nevertheless the nomination of Ri Myong-su is a part of the misinformation strategy of North Korea as the position of Ri Myong-su is only symbolic.