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North Korean nuclear scientist promoted after test of 'new weapons system'

By Elizabeth Shim
Jon Il Ho, seen here to the direct left of Kim Jong Un in this image released on Aug. 7, has been promoted to "three-star general," according to Pyongyang's state media. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/366f3cafcc82e04336161fd5c114bfd2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Jon Il Ho, seen here to the direct left of Kim Jong Un in this image released on Aug. 7, has been promoted to "three-star general," according to Pyongyang's state media. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- A North Korean nuclear scientist is emerging as a major player in the regime following the successful launches of short-range missiles across multiple tests.

Jon Il Ho, who gained international attention in November 2017 when the regime test-fired the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile, has been promoted to a higher rank following the latest rounds of tests, according to Pyongyang's state media.

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Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated Tuesday more than a hundred military scientists were promoted for researching and developing a new weapons system. Jon was recognized with an award that promoted to him to "three-star general," equivalent to the position of a lieutenant-general in the United States military.

Many of the scientists who moved up in ranks are relatively young, with the exception of Jon and three other scientists who have been dubbed North Korea's four "missile men," according to South Korean television network KBS.

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The four men are Jon, Ri Pyong Chol, Kim Jong Sik and Jang Chang Ha. Ri, Kim and Jang were also seen in North Korean photographs released in July following weapons tests. Jon is the only official who is included in the list of promotions, according to South Korean news service News 1.

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Little is known about Jon in Seoul. He first earned attention in South Korea when he was featured in state-sanctioned photographs in 2017, standing close to Kim Jong Un while sharing cigarettes with the North Korean leader. Photos released at the time also show North Korean politician Jo Yong Won, the personal secretariat to Kim.

Jon is believed to be deeply involved in North Korea's missile development and serves as head of automation research at Pyongyang's Kim Chaek University of Technology. Jon could also be affiliated with North Korea's Academy of National Defense Science, according to News 1.

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