Cho Myung Rok Dies, Military Reshuffle Awaits

Vice Marshal Cho Myung Rok, First Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission, died yesterday morning at 82, focusing attention on how the North Korean authorities will reorganize following his passing.

Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the news today, announcing, “Lamentably, Comrade Cho Myung Rok passed away at 10:30 A.M. on November 6, 2010 of chronic cardiac disease at age 82.”

Cho Myung Rok was known as a source of real power in military circles following his appointment to First Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission in 1998, following becoming Director of the Chosun People’s Army (KPA) General Political Department in October, 1995.

However, due to health problems his public activities were reduced drastically starting in 2006. Even though he became a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Party at the 3rd Party Delegates’ Conference in late September, it was a nominal promotion reflecting Cho’s seniority rather than a practical appointment.

Cho’s death may see Vice Marshal Lee Young Ho, who also assumed membership of the Standing Committee of the Politburo at the Delegates’ Conference, being handed the second most powerful role in the military.

This would reflect Lee’s prominence as one of the closest associates of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Eun alongside sister Kim Kyung Hee and brother-in-law Jang Sung Taek.

Additionally, First Vice Director of the General Political Bureau of the Army Kim Jeong Kak or Politburo member and Party Secretary Choi Ryong Hae are prominent candidates for the empty position of Director of the General Political Department of the Workers’ Party, which is now vacant.

Kim Yeon Su, a professor at Korean National Defense University explained in a telephone interview with The Daily NK, “Kim Young Chun and Oh Geuk Ryeol, who did not take any important positions at the Delegates’ Conference, are not appropriate for the General Political Department of the Army, which is in charge of the management of political life in the military, since they have been playing the role of field commander.”

He added, “We need to pay attention to Central Military Commission members Choi Ryong Hae, who became a General at the Delegates’ Conference, and First Vice Director of the General Political Bureau of the Army Kim Jeong Kak.”

“There is the possibility that the function and role of the General Political Bureau of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces could be reinforced in order to strengthen control of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party over the People’s Army,” he went on. “If Kim Jeong Kak takes the position of Director of KPA General Political Department, Kim Jong Eun’s military leadership system could be completed, including Kim Kyung Ok (First Vice Director of the Guidance Department), who became a member of the Central Military Commission of the Party, and Choi Ryong Hae, all led by Lee Young Ho.”

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