North Korean leader fires officers after crisis with South

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un dismisses military officials after recently-defused showdown on Korean Peninsula

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un (front) accompanied by senior military officers

A momentous working week on the Korean Peninsula ended badly for several of the North’s military officials, who were fired by authoritarian leader Kim Jong-un according to an official report on Friday.

North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency revealed that some members of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Military Commission were “dismissed” and replaced with “new ones” at a meeting presumed to have been convened a day earlier -- the North’s media customarily omits details of time and place.

While reasons for the dismissals were not provided, they came after Pyongyang conceded its “regret” earlier this week over recent landmine explosions that left two South Korean soldiers seriously wounded.

Seoul had called on the North to punish those responsible.

South Korean intelligence agents previously claimed that Kim Jong-un’s period in charge since succeeding his father at the end of 2011 has been a bloody one, with dozens of officials purged including the leader’s own uncle.

The North’s virtual admission of responsibility for the Aug. 4 landmine blasts was a key point among six areas of agreement that emerged from four-day inter-Korean talks, which were hastily arranged at the end of last week after the two sides exchanged fire and took up combat postures.

Both Koreas have been seen to be interpreting the landmark deal as a diplomatic victory, given that the South also agreed to switch off propaganda broadcasts and efforts have begun towards holding reunions for family members separated by their heavily-guarded border -- many of whom have not seen each other since before the 1950-53 Korean War.

The KCNA’s report also saw the North Korean leader quoted as praising his own regime for restoring relative calm to the peninsula.

In a blow to the international community’s hopes of denuclearizing the North, Kim affirmed that the episode underscored the need to further strengthen the country’s “military capability for national defense”.

Nevertheless, South Korean government spokesperson Jeong Joon-hee told reporters Friday that they still expect Pyongyang to “faithfully implement” this week’s promises of cooperation.