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North Korea introduced 'first secretary' position under Kim Jong Un, report says

A new position inaugurated under Kim Jong Un during the Eighth Party Congress in January is raising speculation the leader could be seeking to share responsibilities, according to a South Korean press report Tuesday. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
A new position inaugurated under Kim Jong Un during the Eighth Party Congress in January is raising speculation the leader could be seeking to share responsibilities, according to a South Korean press report Tuesday. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

June 1 (UPI) -- North Korea has created a "first secretary" position directly below leader Kim Jong Un, and it is likely North Korean official Jo Yong Won has been appointed to the role, according to a recent press report.

Documentation obtained by South Korean news agency Yonhap showed North Korea introduced new rules affecting governance during the Eighth Party Congress in January.

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The changes were made in Article 26 of the third section of the bylaws for the Korean Workers' Party but have not been disclosed in North Korean state media, the report said.

According to Yonhap, the revision stated the Party's Central Committee would elect a "first secretary," as well as other secretaries, and that the "first secretary would represent the General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party," or Kim.

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The statement could mean the first secretary is not subordinated to Kim but is a politician who could play Kim's role and share Kim's executive power in his absence or as his "substitute," according to the report.

Jo, who first appeared at official events in 2014, has defied the odds during Kim's early years of rule, marked by purges of key officials, including uncle-in-law Jang Song Thaek and North Korean defense chief Hyon Yong Chol.

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Jo has been promoted to higher positions in the Politburo since Kim assumed power. In February, Cho flexed his political muscle and rebuked high-ranking officials for setting economic targets too high.

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Not all analysts agree Jo is to fill the new position, however.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told South Korean news service CBS No Cut News that the position of first secretary is "highly likely" limited to the role of "connecting party members according to the instructions of General Secretary Kim Jong Un."

Yang also said the new position is likely to remain vacant if it has been specifically prepared for a Kim successor. Hereditary rule has lasted for seven decades in the country and it is likely Kim's next-in-line is a direct descendant.

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