North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps during a celebration for nuclear scientists and engineers who contributed to a hydrogen bomb test. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to be focusing more on economic management and concentrating power in his worker’s party at the expense of the military in the face of a continuing nuclear standoff with the US.

The finding is based on an analysis of the seating arrangements at a key North Korean national event by Yonhap, South Korea’s state news agency.

Yonhap says the North’s Korean Central Broadcasting Station and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, announced the names of a 25-man group on the VIP stage of the “Juseokdan”. The event, held Sunday, was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kim Jong-il, the current leader Kim Jong-un’s father, being elected as general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

In the reports, Yonhap says the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong-nam, topped the list followed by Choe Ryong-hae, a vice chairman of the country’s ruling party, who is seen as being on the rise. The two were trailed by Premier Pak Pong-ju and Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of North Korea’s armed forces.

Previously, the North’s official media had the names in the following order: Kim, Hwang, Pak and Choe.

At the event, Choe was named ahead of Pak and Hwang, while Pak was mentioned before Hwang was introduced.

In North Korea, Choe and Pak represent the party and the economy, respectively, according to Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

“Through the plenary meeting, Kim Jong-un showed his willingness to concentrate power in the party and give more importance to the economy,” Kim told Yonhap.

Kim’s move to give more precedence to Choe and Pak, who have accompanied Kim on his recent trips to economy-related sites in the country, over Hwang, who represents the military, is also interpreted as a message that he will manage the difficult economic situation amid the international community’s efforts to denuclearize North Korea through sanctions, Yonhap said.