UPDATE 2: According to Yonhap:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appointed his loyal aide to the No. 2 post in the National Defense Commission on Friday, state media said, another sign of the aging leader consolidating his circle.
O Kuk-ryol was named the commission’s vice chairman, second only to Kim, said the North’s Korean Central News Agency.
North Korean media have said little about O, considered to be a combat-savvy veteran who served as the North’s air force commander and chief of the operational department of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Baek Seung-joo, a Seoul-based analyst, said O helped Kim Jong-il win support from the military in the early 1980s after he was tapped as successor of his father and North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.
“O is a senior military figure whom Kim Jong-il trusts,” Baek said.
O, 78, replaces Kim Yong-chun, who was recently promoted as minister of the People’s Armed Forces, the counterpart of South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
N. Korean leader promotes loyal aide in military shakeup
UPDATE: A short biography of Kim Yong Chun (Big h/t again to Mike):
Born 1936, Kangwon Province
Mangyongdae Revolutionary School
Kim Il Sung University
1960: Secretary, South Phyongan Provincial Committee
1980: Alternate Member, CCKWP (October)
1982: Lieutenant General, Korean People’s Army (year presumed)
1986: Director-General, Strategy Department, delegate to 8th SPA (November), and member of CCKWP (6th term, 12th plenary session, December)
1987: Order of Kim il Sung Award (April)
1990: Delegate, 9th SPA, representing Solbong, Kangwon (April)
1992: Appointed General, KPA (April)
1993: Director-General, General Munitions Mobilization Bureau, KPA (October)
1994: Commanding Officer, KPA Sixth Army Corps (March) and member of Kim il Sung Funeral Committee (July)
1995: Member of O Jin-u Funeral Committee (February), appointed Vice-Marshal and Chief of Staff, KPA (October)
1998: Delegate, 10th SPA (July), appointed to the NDC (September)
2007: Elected Vice Chairman of the NDC, at the ninth session of the 11th SPA (April)
2009: Appointed as Minister of People’s Armed Forces (February)
Ongoing: Member of the CCKWP and the State Funeral Committee
According to KCNA, Ri Young ho was last promoted in 2002:
Pyongyang, April 14 (KCNA) — Kim Jong Il, Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, issued order no.00152 to raise the military ranks of KPA commanding officers on the occasion of the Day of the Sun. According to the order dated April 13, Kim Yun Sim, Kim Jong Gak and Ryo Cyun Sok were promoted to generals.
The military rank of colonel general was conferred on Paek Sang Ho, Kang Yong Ho, Ri Thae Il, Kim Yang Jom and Pak Sung Won and that of lieut. General on Ri Yong Ho, Ri Yong Gil, Hwang Hong Sik, Pak Su Chol and Pang Kuk Hwan. Ri Yong Rae and 39 others were promoted to major generals.
Coincidentally, on that same day in 2002 KCNA announces that Jang Song Taek’s brother was given a military promotion:
Military rank of KPA vice marshal conferred on Jang Song U
Pyongyang, April 14 (KCNA) — The military rank of vice marshal of the Korean People’s Army was conferred on Jang Song U, according to the April 13 joint decision of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the DPRK National Defence Commission.
According to KCNA yesterday:
Minister of People’s Armed Forces and Chief of General Staff Newly Appointed in DPRK
Pyongyang, February 11 (KCNA) — A decision of the DPRK National Defence Commission and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea was released on February 11 in the name of Kim Jong Il, chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission.
Vice Marshal of the Korean People’s Army Kim Yong Chun was appointed as minister of the People’s Armed Forces of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and KPA General Ri Yong Ho as chief of the KPA General Staff, according to the decision.
Former Defense Minister, Kim il Chol, was 70 when he was appointed to the post in 1998. According to the media at the time:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has picked Vice Marshal Kim Il Chol, a close confidant, as defense minister, virtually completing a reorganization of the military, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Tuesday.
The KCNA report monitored in Tokyo said Kim Il Chol, about 70 years old, was promoted from first vice minister to minister of the People’s Armed Forces.
The post of defense minister had been vacant since the death of Choe Kwang in February 1997.
Kim Jong Il issued the order Monday in his capacity as chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), a post which makes him North Korea’s head of state under the revised Constitution.
The Supreme People’s Assembly, the North’s parliament, revised the country’s 1972 Constitution on Saturday, abolishing the state presidency.
Kim Il Chol was a frequent companion of Kim Jong Il, the supreme commander of the North Korean army.
Hat tip to Mike.