High-ranking North Korean official Choe Ryong Hae has made an appearance in the Wednesday edition of the Rodong Sinmun following a three-month absence from the public eye.
On the front page of the Wednesday edition, Choe could be seen standing next to Kim Jong Un during a visit to the newly built Youth Movement Museum on Tuesday. The article said that Kim Jong Un was escorted by officials including Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae, Lee Il Hwan, Cho Yong Won and Kim Yo Jong.
Choe Ryong Hae, the secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee, made his last public appearance in October, escorting Kim Jong Un to a Moranbong Band performance.
Rumors of Choe’s disappearance started to spread rapidly in the Korean media when his name was not included among the members of the funeral committee for Marshal Ri Ul Sol, who died in November.
An unnamed source from South Korea’s intelligence community told the Yonhap News Agency in November that Kim Jong Un had sent Choe to country’s top school for re-education.
Many Korean media outlets reported rumor that he had been dismissed from his position, or even purged from North Korean politics and sent to the countryside to participate in revolutionary education programs.
Choe’s presence was reaffirmed in the last week of December, when his name was spotted as the part of funeral committee for Kim Yang Gon, director of the United Front Department of the WPK.
“Choe being named right after Hwang Pyong So reaffirms that he remains in good standing,” said NK News director of intelligence John Grisafi.
It is not the first time rumors of a purge have followed Choe. South Korea’s Ministry of Unification made a public statement in May 2014 that the chances of Choe Ryong Hae being purged were low when he stepped down as director of the North Korean military’s General Political Bureau, NK News previously reported.
“There is no need for North Korea watchers to make an early judgment,” said Kim Byung-ro from Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.
“Anyone in North Korea, except the national leader, can be subject to revolutionary education if needed. It is the norm in North Korean politics to take such education as a form of reprimand.”
Kim is among those saying there is high chance that Choe received revolutionary education during his absence from North Korean politics.
“Revolutionary education for the period of less than six months can be given to anyone without trial.”
Other South Korea media such as the Hankyoreh reported Choe’s reappearance as early as last Friday, when Choe was identified in state media as “Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee.”
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun
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