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(LEAD) N.K. likely to name new spy chief at upcoming parliamentary meeting: expert

All News 13:56 April 05, 2017

(ATTN: FIXES typo in para 11; ADDS more info in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is expected to fill the vacancy left by the dismissal of Kim Won-hong as its spy chief earlier this year during the upcoming parliamentary meeting, an expert said Wednesday.

Jo Yong-won, a senior official in the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), is highly likely to become the minister of state security at the meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) slated for April 11, according to Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute.

Jo, currently a deputy director of the Organization & Guidance Department under the ruling party, is seen as a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as he accompanied the leader the most on his field inspections.

Kim, 72, was fired from the post of the spy chief in mid-January after a probe by the WPK found his agency had abused authority, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

"If Jo is named the minister of state security, the move would pave the way for current or former officials from the WPK's Organization & Guidance Department to take key posts in the military and the intelligence agency," Cheong said.

This image captured from footage of North Korea's state-run TV broadcaster on Dec. 25, 2016, shows Jo Yong-won (C), an official in the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, who listened to instruction by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) at a party event in Pyongyang. Jo is a deputy director of the Organization & Guidance Department under the ruling party. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Military chief Hwang Pyong-so, widely viewed as the No. 2 man in North Korea, had assumed the first deputy director at the WPK's department before becoming the director of the general political bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in 2014.

Other possible candidates for the spy chief include Pak Yong-sik, minister of the armed forces, and Jo Nam-jin, a senior official at the KPA's general political bureau, according to Cheong.

The SPA, the country's legislative body, is the highest organ of state power under the North's constitution, but it actually rubber-stamps decisions by more powerful organizations, such as the WPK.

At the SPA session held in June last year, ruler Kim was elected the chairman of the newly created state organ State Affairs Commission (SAC), which replaced the National Defense Commission.

At the upcoming meeting, North Korea is likely to change one of eight members of the SAC to fill the vacancy as former spy chief Kim doubled as a member of the new organization.

Cheong said that there is a low possibility that it will change the president of the SPA Presidium, which is being currently held by ceremonial leader Kim Yong-nam, 89.

"Kim Yong-nam is likely to remain in his seat as he is normally playing his part and is not seen to have health problems," he added.

The SPA holds a plenary session in April around the birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung, attended by hundreds of deputies, to finalize the country's budget spending and overhaul Cabinet organs.

The expert earlier said that at the assembly, North Korea may decide to increase budget spending on the light industry or agriculture, rather than the military as it anticipates South Korea's political transition in May.

"But there is a high possibility that Pyongyang could conduct large-scale provocative acts, including another nuke test or the launch of an ICBM, ahead of the founder's birthday slated for April 15," Cheong added.

This file photo shows Kim Won-hong, the former head of North Korea's Ministry of State Security. South Korea's unification ministry said on Feb. 3, 2017, that Kim was dismissed from the post in mid-January. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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