Kim Jong-gwan (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean state media confirmed Wednesday the appointment of a military official who directed the construction of key tourism facilities as the country’s new defense minister.
Kim Jong-gwan, vice minister of the People’s Armed Forces, was assumed to have replaced No Kwang-chol as the minister, as he was named an alternate member of the Workers’ Party politburo during a party meeting at the end of last month.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency had disclosed a photo of Kim wearing the insignia of the four-star rank on Jan. 1, without mentioning his official title.
The KCNA on Wednesday referred to Kim as the defense minister in an article about a conference held Tuesday on forest recovery and environmental protection.
Kim is believed to have been promoted for spearheading North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s pet projects, such as building tourism facilities in the Wonsan-Kalma region on the east coast and a spa resort in Yangdok in South Pyongan Province.
Observers assume that the replacement of the defense minister was carried out in a meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Military Commission presided over by Kim Jong-un around Dec. 22.
The party’s Central Committee then carried out a major reshuffle of key positions, including its politburo members and department directors, during a four-day plenary meeting in late December.
Tuesday’s conference on forest recovery and environmental protection was attended by top officials such as Premier Kim Jae-ryong and Vice Premier Ri Ryong-nam.
During the meeting, the outcome and lessons from last year’s forest recovery and land management projects as well as ways to achieve progress this year were discussed, the KCNA said.
North Korea has emphasized reforestation and environmental protection policies since Kim Jong-un took office.
Participants of Tuesday’s meeting stressed education and scientific research to “resolve the issue of environment protection in our own way,” according to the KCNA. They also spoke about tightening control on environmental damage.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com