The name of senior North Korean official Choe Ryong Hae was listed among the state funeral committee for Kim Yang Gon, the Korean Central News Agency revealed Wednesday, marking the end of a more-than-two-month absence.
Following the death of Kim Yang Gon, the director of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, in a car accident Tuesday, North Korea’s state run KCNA announced a state funeral for Kim, to be held December 31, as well as the composition of the funeral committee.
Choe Ryong Hae is listed as the fifth member of that committee, and has not been featured in state media since October, also missing another state funeral in November.
North Korea typically holds one state funeral a year, though they have made an exception in this case due to the unexpected death of Kim Yang Gon so recently after the death of Ri Ul Sol in November. Each state funeral features an official committee comprised of officials of the ruling WPK and the military, with the officials ordered based on a combination of precedence as well as relation and relevance to the deceased and by their professional field.
These funeral committees provide observers with a glimpse into the current state of the North Korean regime. They can reveal relationships of officials to one another (since they are often grouped together with relevant officials) but can also reveal the continued presence of officials who have otherwise dropped out of public view.
As observed by Michael Madden of North Korea Leadership Watch, Choe’s name was conspicuously absent from the state funeral committee for Ri Ul Sol on November 8. Combined with the fact that he had not been seen in public since October 22, this led to suspicions that Choe was undergoing some sort of reeducation or punishment.
According to South Korean media, citing South Korean government intelligence sources, Choe was “receiving reeducation at Kim Il Sung Higher Party School” as a result of problems with the construction of a power plant at Mount Paektu near the country’s border with China.
As NK News previously reported, the Kim Jong Un regime appears to have recently shifted away from violent purges by execution of senior officials in favor of milder punishments and reeducation. Both NK News and North Korea Leadership Watch predicted that Choe would likely return – at the latest by the time of the 7th Congress of the WPK in May – especially given his history of disappearing and reappearing and his stature within the regime.
Choe’s appearance and ranking on the list for Kim Yang Gon’s funeral committee reveals that Choe remains as a senior member of the North Korean regime. Whether or not Choe was absent as the result of punishment by reeducation or for some other unknown reason however, may remain a mystery.
Featured image: Korean Central News Agency
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