ak Thae-song, a deputy director in North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, has become the party’s new secretary in charge of the western province of South Pyongan, state media confirmed Wednesday.
He succeeded Hong In-bom, who was likewise promoted to the post from party deputy director in June 2010. Hong’s new title remains unclear, though he was named a deputy for the country’s rubber-stamp parliament early this year.
Pak’s new position came to light as the official Korean Central News Agency reported that he greeted leader Kim Jong-un during his visit to a machinery plant in the region. Pak also accompanied the young ruler on a recent Air Force event there.
His promotion was the latest in a string of personnel shakeups since the execution last December of Kim’s once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek. The communist regime has since been reshuffling its top brass to consolidate power, appointing new coal industry and metal industry ministers and other key aides.
Pak appears to be part of a group of five emerging executives who frequently travel with Kim for field inspections and other public events as party deputy directors. With his precise affiliation remaining unconfirmed, observers believe that he belongs to the party’s key department of organization guidance, based on the order in which state media list the officials’ names.
Hwang Pyong-so, formerly the first deputy director of the organization guidance department, has recently been elevated to director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army and the coveted rank of vice marshal.
Deemed one of the core provinces second to Pyongyang, South Pyongan has historically been led by politburo candidates or other party bigwigs.
Pak is believed to have made his political debut on Aug. 31, 2012, when he turned up at a trip to a newly opened restaurant in Pyongyang alongside Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)