North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is doling out the ranks of military generals to scientists, ruling party members and other civilians in a move seen as aimed at strengthening his grip on power and reining in the influence of the armed forces, experts said Sunday.
On Wednesday, the North's state TV showed footage of Choe Chun-sik, the chief of a science institute, wearing a military uniform with a two-star insignia as it reported on the completion of a housing complex for scientists and technicians in the defense industry.
Choe is a bona fide civilian scientist with no previous military experience. The general rank is believed to have been given to him as a commendation for his contribution to the defense industry as his institute is tasked with developing long-range rockets, missiles and artillery.
Other civilians given the ranks of generals include Pak Do-chun, a ruling Workers' Party secretary responsible for the military industry, and Ju Kyu-chang, director of the Machine-Building Industry Department of the Workers' Party, and Paek Se-pong, chairman of the country's Second Economic Commission.
Pak was given a four-star rank, while Ju and Paek were given three-star ranks in February last year.
Leader Kim himself was given a four-star rank in 2011 by his father and former leader Kim Jong-il before he officially took over the communist nation after the elder Kim died in December of that year.
"This is part of a process to gain control of the military by giving stars to close aides of the Workers' Party," said professor Kim Yong-hyun of Seoul's Dongguk University. "It appears he is trying to keep the military under stable control through Workers' Party figures."(Yonhap news)