North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promoted 35 general officers ahead of his late father's birthday, a major holiday in the North, the country's official media outlet said Saturday.
The move takes place just three days before the isolationist country celebrates Kwangmyongsong Day, the birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il who died in December 2011. The late leader's birthday is also referred to as the Day of the Shining Star.
It also comes after South Korea's intelligence service claimed that Kim Jong-un recently executed Ri Yong-gil, the second highest ranking Army officer, on charges of corruption and second-guessing the young leader's orders.
According to Korean Central Television picked up in Seoul, Kim, who is the supreme commander of the North's military, promoted Kim Sang-gap, Ju Tong-chol, Sim Jong-thaek, Ri Yong-min and Ri Song-hak to Army lieutenant general ranks, along with Ho Yong-ho, who serves in the Korean People's Internal Security Forces.
The report said that Ri Su-gyong, Kim Kwang-il and Jang Chun-won were posted as rear admirals in the Navy and An Pyong-chil and Choe Chol-su were appointed Air Force major generals, with Nam Kil-hak and Kim Il-ung being given major general ranks in the country's Strategic Force.
The lieutenant general rank in the North is equivalent to a two star general officer in South Korea's military, while a major general is on par with a one-star officer.
North Korean watchers in Seoul said the promotion of the large number of general officers is a move to strengthen Kim's control over the military, critical for the regime's survival, and raise the morale of troops. Tensions have mounted on the Korean Peninsula after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test and fired off its sixth long-range rocket coming into this year. (Yonhap)