Choe Ryong Hae has made his first public appearance since February 16, quelling recent rumors of his arrest and detention. His reappearance, though, doesn’t necessarily mean his power isn’t waning.
Vice Marshall Choe, the director of the Korean People’s Army General Political Bureau, accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a field guidance visit to KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Unit 2620, the KCNA and Rodong Sinmun reported March 7. The last time Choe was seen in public was at Kim’s visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun for the celebration of late leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16. Choe’s reappearance alongside North Korea’s Supreme Leader indicates that rumors Choe was purged and arrested by the Ministry of State Security are likely untrue.
The recent absence of Choe from the public eye and from an important meeting of party ideological officials garnered much attention from North Korea watchers. Choe, who has appeared alongside Kim more than any other official, has generally been seen as Kim’s right-hand man, especially after the purge of Kim’s uncle Jang Song Taek. It is possible that Choe was unseen for about two weeks due to illness or being busy with other unpublicized duties.
But the reappearance of Choe does not by itself prove he is still the real No. 2 man in the North Korean regime. Recent analysis reveals that Choe has been excluded from key meetings of Kim and an inner circle of senior officials close to him including Han Kwang Sang, Hwang Pyong So, Ma Won Chun and Hong Yong Chil. The rise of most of these men has been linked to the rise of Kim and many are members of party’s Organization and Guidance Department, which wields much power and influence over of the rest of the Worker’s Party of Korea and, therefore, the entire North Korean government.
Picture: The Rodong Sinmun
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