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(LEAD) Late N.K. leader's half-brother named ambassador to Czech Republic

All Headlines 09:13 January 21, 2015

(ATTN: CORRECTS spelling error in 3rd para)

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The half-brother of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was recently appointed Pyongyang's top envoy to the Czech Republic after serving 17 years as ambassador to Poland, a South Korean government official said Wednesday.

Kim Pyong-il is a younger brother of Kim Jong-il, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un. He will be replaced in Warsaw by Ri Kun, the director general for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"It has been determined that Kim Pyong-il recently took office as ambassador to the Czech Republic and Ri Kun has received (Poland's) agrement to become ambassador to Poland," the official said, referring to diplomatic protocol in which a host country endorses a candidate for ambassador.

Cheong Seong-jang, a senior researcher at Seoul's Sejong Institute, said the new assignment appears to be a move to prevent Kim Pyong-il from building a power base around him as he has held one position for 17 years.

"Kim Pyong-il has been under Pyongyang's watch and held in check all his life," he said.

A government official said Ri Kun's appointment appears to be part of a generation change in the lineup of North Korean diplomats handling North American affairs.

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