End of Kim Jong-un? North Korea’s secret new leadership contenders exposed

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Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has seen a tumultuous 2020 so far, with rumours of his death dominating headlines in April and May. In addition to leadership fears, the country has been concerns with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the world.

However, North Korea has not reported any cases of coronavirus.

A Daily NK source has now provided some insight into two new figures being potentially lined up.

One of the new appointments tents is Rim Gwang-il as the head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

That department oversees espionage work in neighbouring South Korea, and other rival countries.

The other appointment was Gwak Chang-sik, who is the new head of Supreme Guard Command, responsible for protecting Kim Jong-un.

A source based in North Korea told Daily NK: “Rim Gwang-il is an expert in tactical operations with a stellar reputation, while Gwak Chang-sil is known as a deep thinker of few words.”

The source also said of Rim: “Rim is regarded as highly competent in the field of tactical operations.

“He is said to be able to take in topographic maps, nautical charts and aerial maps at a single glance.

“He is known for his magnanimous personality, making firm and accurate decisions and a tenacious temperament.”

Rim Gwang-il, Jang’s replacement, is highly regarded for his outstanding abilities and character.

The source holds that the immediate reason behind the appointment of the new RGB head was because of a failed operation last year.

The operation saw seven agents dispatched to Russia in July last year, who later traveled to Shanghai, where several were killed in a raid on a local jewelry shop.

Predecessor Jang Gil-song has been judged as incompetent when it came to the management of military units, and also had a poor track record in carrying out daily operations, and above all, the computers and modems he had purchased from abroad with party funds after his promotion were not up to the standard and the high price tag.

The new head of the RGB has plans to conduct major hacking operations against the South Korean Ministry of National Defence and US Armed Forces Korea to obtain military secrets to aid North Korea, according to the source.

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Gwak Chang-sik became the head of the SGC after incumbent Yoon Jong-rin was also held ultimately responsible for the loss of confidential documents at SGC headquarters in late 2018.

North Korea sought to find a replacement with no academic or regional connections to those in power in the party, government, military or judiciary to ensure they would be fully devoted to the task of protecting Kim Jong-un.

The source told Daily NK: “They have chosen a loyalist with a squeaky clean record to serve as SGC head.

“Gwak reveres the Suryong [North Korea’s leader] on a personal level, and was picked as an individual with the moral character to dedicate his life to guarding the leader.”

It came before Kim Jong-un was seen at the Politiburo of North Korea’s Workers’ Party meeting.

New images show the dictator sitting at a large round table, flanked by veteran aides Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju.

Reportedly, the meeting “discussed in depth some crucial issues arising in further developing the self-sufficient economy of the country and improving the standard of people’s living”.

It was the first time he had been seen since 11 April – an absence which had led many to speculate he was gravely ill after surgery.

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