Kim Jong-un’s brief term in office since his father’s death is, at least on the surface, a sharp change from the former leader’s dour rule which took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression.
Once the official mourning period was over, the youngest Kim to rule North Korea was seen laughing with fusty old generals, gesticulating in delight at a military parade and, the biggest shock of all, speaking in public. Most North Koreans went to their graves never having heard Kim the elder speak.
Both Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were named Generalissimos of the North Korean army, one of the world’s largest.
Ri’s removal was widely seen as a purge and was followed by the promotion of relatively unknown military man Hyon Yong-chol to the rank of vice marshal.
Experts says the latest moves have more to do with a shifting of the guards surrounding the young leader than any fundamental changes in policy.