North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

New Minister of Land and Environmental Protection

paksongnam

Pak Song-nam was dismissed as Minister of Land and Environmental Protection.

In the third (3rd) DPRK Cabinet replacement to occur in two (2) calendar months, Minister of Land and Environment Protection Pak Song-nam has been relieved of his post.  Mr. Pak was appointed as Minister in April 2006 and his appointment was renewed at the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly in April of this year.  Mr. Pak joins Kim Wan-su (former Minister of Finance) and Pyon Yong-rip (former President of the State Academy of Sciences) in a trio of Cabinet replacements in the last sixty (60) days, and the twelfth (12th) Cabinet replacement to occur in 2009.  As Yonhap News reports Pak Song-nam’s replacement, Kim Chang-ryong, is “obscure.”  It is likely that the replacement is a Kim Chang-ryong (born 1947) who is a former Vice Chair of the Kim Il-sung Youth League, Vice Chair of the Korean Students Committee  and a former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs who had served as the DPRK Ambassador to Germany (1999-2004) and Iran (2004-2008).  This particular Mr. Kim certainly has the profile–in MOFA, but certainly in two North Korean youth/student organizations–of a member of Jang Song-thaek’s political patronage network.  If this is the new Minister this would add further credence to the contention by Pyongyangologists (this one included) that Kim Jong-il is populating North Korea’s policymaking organs with members of the Jang Song-thaek-Kim Kyong-hui political family.

There is also a Kim Chang-ryong identified in the North Korean press as a Korean People’s Army General (the Ministry of Public Security has a bureau for environmental regulation and MPS draws some of its personnel from the KPA) who sang the praises of the DPRK’s ICBM/satellite launch in April 2009, as well as a Kim Chang-ryol identified as a Chairman of the Korea Susok Association.  This latter position could be filled by either a MOFA official or KPA General.  Susok are natural rock formations, certainly a position germane to the Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection.  It is also likely that all of these Kim Chang-ryol’s are the same person.  If a new DPRK Cabinet Minister has been drawn from the ranks of the KPA, this may be interpreted as evidence of the KPA’s increasing dominance of the DPRK State; that said, KPA influence is often balanced by the supposedly tight security controls of the Military Security Command and Party management.

kim chang ryong

Will the real Kim Chang-ryong step forward, please? Former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and former DPRK Ambassador Kim Chang-ryong in Iran.

In terms of the North Korean power dynamic, the DPRK State (which is to say the Cabinet) is certainly the tertiary constituent of the DPRK’s Power Three of Party-Army-State.  Nevertheless, this latest Cabinet appointment is the most recent of a dozen to happen this year.  Attrition in the DPRK Cabinet is not unusual, but as previously mentioned, this is the third (3rd) turnover in a sixty (60) day period.  A replacement of the Minister of Land and Environmental Protection might relate to the enigmatic forest fires captured by a NASA satellite, and written about by North Korea Economy Watch.  But the 2009 attrition in the DPRK Cabinet may read as a sign of succession, political conflicts among North Korean elites, or both.  Cabinet and personnel attrition may occur due to a succession drive (where positions are filled with the successors’ supporters).  This examination of the latest Cabinet replacement is predicated on examining the recent DPRK Cabinet appointments at-large.  A new Minister of Land and Environmental Protection may simply be a cosmetic change to implement the KWP’s “green revolution.”

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  1. adamcathcart
    November 8, 2009

    It may just be a coincidence, but KCNA today seemed to get rather effusive about tree-planting activity all over the country: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2009/200911/news06/20091106-05ee.html

    On the forest fire issue, although I’ve looked, I have found virtually no follow-up to the original story in Chinese, U.S., or South Korean media. Perhaps the usual suspects at the Daily NK are all tapped out, know nothing about it, or their cell phones are all jammed. It just seems strange, considering the amount of news that normally comes out of Chongjin, that a story this large would just remain dormant.

    Daily NK has a short piece from Nov. 3 on forestry and social conflicts which you may have also seen:
    http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=5602

    Anyway, once again you’ve given us a new angle on things; thanks for the informative post.

    • nkleadershipwatch
      November 8, 2009

      The North Korean press started the environmental/green theme during the Spring, at the start of the 150 Day Campaign. But they have chosen to turn up the volume on the “green revolution” as of late. I only mentioned the forest fires as a possible rationale for replacing this particular Cabinet minister, and I strongly suspect that they also caused replacements within the Ministry of Public Security.

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This article was written on 07 Nov 2009, and is filled under DPRK Cabinet, Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection.

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