Economy and weapons priorities for Kim Jong Un, analyst says

Aug. 21 (UPI) — Kim Jong Un‘s reorganization of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party indicates the North Korean leader seeks parallel economic and strategic weapons development, according to a South Korean analyst.

Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute said the appointments of North Korean politicians Kim Tok Hun and Ri Pyong Chol to the politburo of the party’s central committee on Aug. 13 is a sign of Pyongyang’s evolving policy amid economic hardships and COVID-19, Newsis reported Friday.

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Earlier in the month, Kim Tok Hun was appointed to the vice chairman position of the party’s central committee. He is also the chairman of the budget committee of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly and is the newly appointed premier of North Korea.

Ri Pyong Chol, who has been seen at a meeting of North Korea’s Central Military Commission on July 18, has been rising in the ranks of the North Korean bureaucracy. According to analyst Markus V. Garlauskas, Ri was the “only participant mentioned by name in the KCNA report of these events besides [Kim Jong Un] himself.” Ri has been identified as the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

On Friday, Cheong suggested in his analysis the addition of Kim Tok Hun and Ri to the politburo’s standing committee indicates Kim Jong Un, top North Korean officials Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju will be sharing power in a group at the heart of the North Korean administration.

The North Korean leader wants to express his “strong will” and determination to overcome an economic crisis in the country due to heavy sanctions, plummeting trade amid COVID-19 and a shortage of foreign currency, Cheong said.

North Korea could be struggling amid a power shortage.

The Rodong Sinmun reported Friday the state is pursuing “electricity conservation projects.”

A North Korean official of the electric power industries urged the country to save electricity as much as possible, according to the Rodong.

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