North Korea Names New Defense Minister General Pak Yong-sik
kpopluv, July 12, 2015, 7:48 p.m.
North Korea confirmed Saturday the replacement of the country's former defense minister believed to have been executed earlier this year on the charge of treason. In a report on high-level military talks with Laos held in Pyongyang Saturday, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said four-star army General Pak Yong-sik attended the bilateral talks as the head of the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, equivalent to South Korea's defense minister.
It is the first time the North has confirmed the replacement of the defense minister since South Korea's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said in May the previous defense minister, Hyon Yong-chol, was executed in April on charges of treason.
Pak has appeared among the top-echelon entourage accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to major public events in recent KCNA reports, fueling outside assumptions that he must have been appointed the new defense minister. But the appointment was not officially confirmed until the Saturday report.
The defense minister position is believed to be the second or third most influential military position next to the post of director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, now assumed by Hwang Pyong-so.
Promoted to major general in the army in 1999, Pak Yong-sik climbed up the military ladder quickly to become a four-star general in May and a vice director at the General Political Bureau in April. During the high-level military dialogue on Saturday, officials discussed ways to further develop relations between the two countries' military and issues of mutual interest, KCNA reported.