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North Korea's Kim promoted to marshal
Latest move follows several days of reshuffling at the highest levels of nation's powerful military establishment.
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2012 09:55
Al Jazeera speaks to John Delury about the promotion

North Korea says its leader Kim Jong-un has been promoted to marshal, cementing his status at the top of the nation's military.

North Korean state media made the announcement on Wednesday in a special bulletin.

The move follows several days of reshuffling at the highest levels of North Korea's most powerful institution.

The changes are widely seen by outside observers as an attempt by the new leader to put his stamp on the government he inherited seven months ago when his father Kim Jong-il died.

On Tuesday, the country also named a new vice-marshal in the army, a day after it emerged that the country's army chief had been relieved of duties due to illness.

The decision to appoint Hyon Yong-chol was taken on Monday by the ruling party's central military commission and the country's national defence commission, the official news agency KCNA said.

The title of marshal was previously held by Kim's father and grandfather.

The "Marshal of the DPRK" rank was first held by North Korea's founding father Kim Il-sung, until he was promoted to generalissimo in 1992, two years before he died of a heart attack.

His son Jong-il - Jong-un's father - was also addressed as Marshal of the DPRK before he was posthumously awarded the title of generalissimo in February this year.

Jong-un became a general in September 2010. His promotion to the new rank came days after he sacked army chief Ri Yong-ho as part of a reshuffle apparently aimed at imposing himself on the country's 1.2-million-strong military.

With Hyon promoted to vice-marshal, Jong-un apparently needed a new rank befitting him as the supreme commander of the military, Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute said.

"This is the only title left for Jong-un to decorate himself with after he assumed almost all party and army positions," he said.

Kim Jong-un, 28, is the world's youngest head of state, but not North Korea's president. That title belongs - eternally, Pyongyang says - to his late grandfather Kim Il-sung, the nation's founder. But the younger Kim has acquired a number of other titles in the seven months since he became the country's leader.

  • Marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea: Kim was granted the title in a meeting of top government, military and Workers' Party officials on July 17. The decision was made a day after the surprise announcement of the dismissal of the army chief. Kim previously was promoted to four-star general in September 2010.
     
  • First chairman of the National Defence Commission: North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly elected Kim to the post in a special parliamentary session April 13. It also made his father, late leader Kim Jong-il, the commission's "chairman for eternity".
     
  • First secretary of the Workers' Party: Kim was awarded the newly created post at a special party conference on April 11. His father was granted the posthumous title of "eternal general secretary".
     
  • Chairman of the party's Central Military Commission: Kim succeeded his father as chairman of the commission that formulates the party's military policies at the April 11 conference. Kim had been named a vice chairman of the commission in September 2010.
     
  • Member of the Presidium of the party's Political Bureau: Kim was named a standing member of the party's five-man politburo Presidium at the April 11 conference.
     
  • Supreme commander of the Korean People's Army: Kim was named the top commander of North Korea's 1.2 million-member military at a Workers' Party meeting on December 30.

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