Friday, May 24, 2013

North Korea's Military Reshuffles Are a Dangerous Sign

North Korea's hawkish Gen. Kim Kyok-sik has been named army chief, while his predecessor Hyon Yong-chol has apparently been moved to the 5th Corps in the central region. The equally hawkish Kim Yong-chol, the director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, has apparently been appointed vice army chief.

Kim Kyok-sik was in charge of troops on the western coast during a naval skirmish in November 2009, in March 2010 when the North sank the Navy corvette Cheonan, and when it shelled Yeonpyeong Island later that year.

Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was fond of the general's belligerent ways and described him as a "fighter." Intelligence reports after the inauguration of former President Lee Myung-bak warned that Kim Kyok-sik had been appointed to lead a provocation against the South, but Seoul failed to heed the warning.

It cannot afford to repeat that mistake.