SEOUL — The young man who took the helm of North Korea following his father's death last December has been formally declared the country's top military leader.
North Koreans had been alerted an hour in advance to tune in at noon for important news. The previous time there had been such an announcement was on December 19 last year to announce the death of leader Kim Jong Il.
So anticipation was high, not only in North Korea, when the announcer opened the noon newscast.
The announcer said “a decision was made to award the title of Marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to Kim Jong Un, the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army."
The 45-second announcement was followed by state radio playing the song “We will defend General Kim Jong Un at the Risk of Our Lives.”
Kim is believed to be 29 years of age.
The promotion for Kim, previously named a four-star general and who already holds almost all top military and party positions, comes just days after army chief Ri Yong Ho was removed from all of his posts supposedly due to “illness.”
An obscure general, Hyun Yong Chol, was named Tuesday to replace Ri as vice marshal.
Kim came to power seven months ago following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who was the son of North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung.
Kim Jong Il, who was also a marshal, was promoted in February, two months after his death, to generalissimo.
The changes are seen by analysts as an attempt to cement the hold on power by the third generation of the Kim family. But some analysts say the events of the last several days indicate conflict between the ruling family and the military - or even within the military, which has more than one million active personnel, making it the world's fourth largest army.
Baek Seung-joo is a senior researcher at the South Korean government-funded Korea Institute of Defense Analyses.
Baek says he thinks Kim was given the new title to solve issues from internal conflicts in the military and quell complaints or questions about whether he is really able to control the army. Baek adds it is timed to show North Koreans their young leader has absolute power and to demonstrate his status to the outside world.
Rival South Korea has not officially reacted to Kim's military promotion.
The publicly-funded Yonhap news agency, quotes unnamed South Korean officials as saying the decision appears to be an internal matter and no unusual moves by North Korea's army have been detected following the announcement.