Image: YouTube capture

A large photograph hung at the venue of the National Defense Exhibition “Self-Defense 2021” to mark Party Foundation Day (Oct. 10) has become a hot topic of discussion among party and military cadres.

The venue also had solo portraits of Kim as well as photos of Kim with military cadres. However, party and military cadres reportedly took a keen interest in a photo of Kim with Central Committee secretary Pak Jong Chon.

A Daily NK source in North Korea said Friday that party and military cadres who attended the defense expo were “wide-eyed” upon seeing the photo of Kim and Pak. “Because of this, rumors are circulating within the Central Committee and military of the things the Supreme Leader (Kim) has said about Comrade Pak Jong Chan.” 

According to the source, officials from the party’s Military Industries Department; researchers, scientists and technical experts from the Academy of Defense Sciences and defense universities; cadres from the General Political Bureau, General Staff Department and Ministry of Defense; and army corps heads and commanders who attended the event were surprised at the large photo, saying it reminded them of old photos of Kim Il Sung with Kim Chaek.

The source said within the party and military, people are likening the relationship between Kim Jong Un and Park Jong Chon to that between Kim Il Sung and Kim Chaek and that between Kim Jong Il and O Jin U.

Pak got tongues wagging within the North Korean military once before following his being named chief of the General Staff in 2019 after commanding North Korea’s artillery units, breaking the long-established practice that the chief of the General Staff should first head the headquarters of the General Staff Department. At the time, people said the extraordinary appointment was due to Kim Jong Un’s particular affection for artillery — the North Korean leader majored in artillery at Kim Il Sung Military University.

Two years later, Pak was named a marshall — the highest rank within the North Korean military — for his skills as a commander in pushing Kim’s desire to organize, deploy and improve North Korea’s artillery arsenal.

At an enlarged politburo meeting in late June, Pak was reprimanded due to a “grave case” involving quarantine efforts and demoted a rank. About two months later, however, he was elected to the Presidium of the Politburo of the Central Committee and secretary of the Central Committee, key positions that greatly elevated his status.

With such a big photograph of Pak with Kim hanging at the expo venue, party and military cadres are reportedly showing intense interest, recalling Kim Il Sung’s relationship with Kim Chaek and Kim Jong Il’s relationship with O Jin U.

A statue of Kim Chaek / Image: Wikipedia

Kim Chaek led the strengthening of North Korea’s national defense during the days of Kim Il Sung by bolstering the defense industries. Kim reportedly showed great trust in him, calling him a singularly close comrade, a revolutionary fighter with whom he agreed, and a political ally who transcended family.

The source said when Kim Il Sung died, there was only one photograph in his personal safe: that of him with Kim Chaek. From this was born the song, “One Photograph.”

If Kim Il Sung had Kim Chaek, Kim Jong Il had O Jin U. O, who vouched for Kim when the latter entered the ruling party, mobilized former anti-Japanese partisans to back Kim during his succession period. Accordingly, North Koreans call him Kim’s “singular comrade” who played a leading role in passing down the accomplishments of the “Juche Revolution” to the next generation.

Pointing thusly to the close aides of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, Central Committee members and military cadres are reportedly saying several things about the relationship between the current North Korean leader and Pak Jong Chan.

The source said that during Kim’s on-the-spot guidance tours, the North Korean leader said Pak was to him “like Kim Il Sung’s comrade Kim Chaek.” He also said Kim called Pak “a commander who could lead from the front like Kim Chaek.”

The source said cadres say Kim considers Pak a “frank, unpretentious and loyal official.” They believe Pak to be a military official who has worked hard to bolster the nation’s artillery forces by accepting Kim’s belief that artillery is at the heart of “modern warfare.”

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to