The recent appointment of two Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) officials to senior posts in Pyongyang and Ryanggang Province is directly connected to important construction and tourism-related projects in both areas, Daily NK sources reported recently.
Kim Yong Hwan, who was made chairman of the Ryanggang Provincial Party Committee at the 5th plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the WPK, was appointed chairman of the Pyongyang Party Committee at an expanded meeting of the politburo of the WPK in late February. Ri Tae Il, who was appointed Kaesong’s party committee chairman earlier this year, replaced Kim as chairman of the Ryanggang Province Party Committee at the same meeting.
“Kim Yong Hwan and Ri Tae Il are both skilled party officials. Kim will take on new apartment projects in Pyongyang while Ri will manage the development of tourism in Samjiyon,” a North Korean source told Daily NK on Mar. 10.
KIM YONG HWAN: CONSTRUCTION WHIZ
Kim Yong Hwan is reportedly considered to be the “right person” for leading the construction of apartments in Pyongyang among party officials.
Daily NK sources speculate that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decided to replace Pyongyang Party Chairman Kim Nung Oh with Kim Yong Hwan because of his broad knowledge of construction and economic matters and “outstanding working-level” abilities.
Kim Nung Oh has reportedly become deputy chairman of the Central Committee and is involved in research related to the party’s history at The Party History Institute.
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun reported on Feb. 29 that officials at the Politburo’s expanded meeting had discussed “speeding up” the construction of apartments in Pyongyang and areas outside of the city “in line with the demands of our Party’s construction policies, which place priority on the comfort of the people.”
Daily NK also reported through a source in the country that Kim Jong Un had ordered the construction of Kim Jong Suk Street.
Since gaining power in 2012, Kim Jong Un has aimed to highlight his leadership of the people and promote stability through “gift-giving politics,” which has included handing out new apartments to loyalists. Kim’s efforts to speed up apartment building construction in Pyongyang is likely aimed increasing loyalty towards the regime and to promote internal solidarity as the country faces uncertain times ahead.
When he was the vice chairman of Ryanggang Province’s party committee, Kim Yong Hwan frequently accompanied Kim Jong Un during the leader’s on-the-spot visits to the Samjiyon construction site. He is likely to have chosen for the new position in Pyongyang because of his broad understanding of construction processes, his ability to meet set goals, and his prowess in acquiring construction materials and labor.
Kim also reportedly lends an ear to the opinions of officials involved in the country’s construction sector and works well with construction engineers. He is considered a model for other party officials, sources told Daily NK.
RI TAE IL: SAMJIYON’S TOURISM CZAR
Ri Tae Il’s appointment as chairman of Ryanggang Province’s party committee suggests that the regime plans to use him to invigorate the development of tourism in Samjiyon. Ri was at one time the vice chairman of the North Pyongan Province Party Committee and is considered capable of handling projects related to international exchanges and tourism.
“Party officials think that [Ri’s appointment] is part of a broad strategy by the government to turn the Samjiyon and Mt. Paektu areas into a world-class tourist zone,” one source said. “The Organization and Guidance Department [OGD] believes he has unique abilities to interface with people, conduct diplomacy and manage tourism-related projects.”
The OGD essentially recommended him for the job, the source added.
North Korea is planning to complete the third and final phase of the Samjiyon construction project before Oct. 10, which marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the WPK. Ri’s appointment to the senior-most post in the province is likely aimed at preparing the areas for ways to “breakthrough” the economic malaise that has enveloped the country.
The continued closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex along with poor inter-Korean relations also played a part in Ri’s move from Kaesong to Ryanggang Province, Daily NK sources said.
The North Korean leadership decided that there was no longer a need to keep such a capable party official in a place with little to no activity, one source said, adding, “The leadership thinks that really anyone could take over management of the Kaesong Industrial Complex at this point because systems are well established there.”
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