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NK looks to have replaced key party officials handling munitions industry

All Headlines 16:17 September 22, 2015

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is presumed to have replaced key party officials in charge of the nation's missile and nuclear development with noticeably younger people, an analysis on the North's media reports showed Tuesday.

The North's move is seen as reinforcing its munitions sector at a time when North Korea is raising its missile and nuclear provocations, claiming that the launch of satellites and conducting a nuke test are the North's sovereign rights.

During Kim's field guidances at various munitions industry compounds, the young leader has been often accompanied by Kim Chun-sop, a newly elected member of the North's National Defense Commission, and Hong Yong-chil, deputy director of the machine-building industry department at the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).

The leader replaced Park To-chun on the 10-member defense commission with Kim at a one-day parliamentary session that convened April 9 in Pyongyang. The 71-year-old Park was a former party secretary handling the North's missile and nuclear development.

Main figures dealing with the North's munitions industry under Kim's regime -- Park and the 87-year-old Ju Kyu-chang, who was a former director of the WPK's relevant department -- appeared to have been replaced by younger officials, according to the analysis on the North's reports.

Park and Ju were among three North Korean individuals designated by the United States in 2013 as those directly linked to North Korea's proliferation activities.

The title of Kim Chun-sop has not been made officially known, but he may have replaced Ju, given a pecking order shown in the North's media reports.

"The North's defense industry is the sector in which the North Korean leader can swiftly conduct personnel reshuffle as its development hinges on technology and achievement," said Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.

North Korea has recently made missile and nuclear threats as it vowed to launch satellites near the 70th anniversary of the WPK's founding, which outside analysts view as a cover for ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang has also hinted at conducting a fourth nuclear test.

The North has been pursuing a dual policy of developing nuclear weapons as well as boosting its ailing economy, commonly known as the "byeongjin policy."


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