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(LEAD) N. Korean officials handling S. Korea affairs gain clout amid peace mood

All Headlines 13:23 April 21, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 2 paras; ADDS photos)

SEOUL, April 21 (Yonhap) -- In North Korea, an apparent power change is under way among top officials amid a peace mood on the peninsula ahead of the inter-Korean summit talks that will be followed by an unprecedented Pyongyang-Washington summit, according to the communist nation's announcement Saturday.

What's noteworthy is the rise of officials who have played a major role in creating the current security situations, such as Kim Chang-son and Ri Son-gwon.

They have emerged as leader Kim Jong-un's key aides over hard-line officials, including Kim Jong-gak, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA).

Kim Chang-son was elected as a member of the Party Central Committee, with Ri picked as an alternate member of the panel during the third plenary meeting of the seventh Central Committee of the powerful Workers' Party of Korea, reported the state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim Chang-son, whose face is in a red circle, accompanies Kim Jong-un on his trip to Beijing in late March in this photo released by the North's state TV broadcaster. (Yonhap) [For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution]

Having served as the de-facto chief of staff to leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Chang-son has shown up at several inter-Korean talks and other cooperation events.

Most recently, he was the North's chief delegate to negotiations with South Korea on the protocol, security service and media issue related to the third inter-Korean summit slated for next Friday.

He has served as the director and chief secretary of the National Defense Commission Secretariat, Kim Jong-un's executive office.

Ri, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, is a key player in recent inter-Korean relations as well as the counterpart of South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.

South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L) shakes hands with Ri Son-gwon, chairman of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country during a March meeting held at the truce village of Panmunjom. (Joint press corps-Yonhap)

Kim Song-nam, vice head of the party's international affairs, who accompanied the leader on his March trip to Beijing, was chosen as a member of the committee and North Korean Sports Minister Kim Il-guk, who spearheaded inter-Korean sports exchanges, became an alternate member.

The decision is viewed as meant to give more authority and influence to officials behind the peace mood as Pyongyang is preparing for a series of top-level meetings with South Korea, the U.S and China.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-gak was re-elected as member of the political bureau of the party's central committee, but he was not given the title of a presidium member, unlike his predecessor at the KPA bureau Hwang Pyong-so.

The presidium is expected to maintain a four-person system for the time being, involving Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-nam, the ceremonial head of state, Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the central committee, and Park Pong-ju, premier of the Cabinet.


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