The top military chief in North Korea, who is a key mentor to Kim Jong Un the new leader and served under his father, was removed for all his posts due to illness. The announcement was made by state media on Monday. The announcement of the removal of Ri Yong Ho shakes the power structure of the authoritarian country to the core.
Ri looked healthy in the last public appearances he made. His departure now feeds speculation amongst analysts that Kim ousted him as a way to make his own mark in the country he took over just seven months ago following his father’s death.
The top military officers’ ouster was made on Sunday at the Workers’ Party meeting said the official news agency for the country. It is not completely clear who will be taking Ri’s place and the announcement from the agency did not elaborate on Ri’s condition or his future.
Analysts are skeptical about the claim of illness, in part due to Ri looking very healthy of late. They also said Ri won a major promotion at a party conference in 2010, but none this past April, which caused speculation about the future of the general.
Most speculate the general was purged and did not leave due to illness. By this happening, it would send a very strong message to anyone who might want to challenge the new young leader, even if Ri had not directly done so.
This latest dismissal also comes at a time that other waves are being made by Kim. On State TV, he was shown at a music concert and at a school in the company of a woman who looked like she might be a first lady. To date, her identity has not been revealed, just her appearance made a notable change from the previous King Jong II era. He kept all of his companions from the view of state media.