North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has named his confidant Hwang Pyong-so as the military's top political officer, the country's state news agency said Friday, the latest in a series of reshuffles that indicated the dwindling power of Hwang's predecessor.
Hwang's appointment as the director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army was confirmed in a speech he delivered at a banquet in Pyongyang on Thursday marking May Day, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
The move came just five days after Hwang was promoted to a vice marshal, the second-highest functioning military rank in the communist country.
In March, Hwang appeared as a four-star general at a military event in Pyongyang. His meteoric rise to the new post comes at a time when his predecessor, Choe Ryong-hae, has been making fewer public appearances.
The KCNA did not give any reason for Choe's abrupt removal from the post of the military's top political officer.
The latest reshuffle came six days after the KCNA reported that Kim "severely criticized" a military unit for failing to make good combat preparations during his inspection of a shelling drill.
Kim, the supreme commander of the 1.1 million-strong military, said the ruling Workers' Party committee of the unit is responsible for the unit's poor combat preparations in what could be a thinly veiled attack on Choe.
Last Thursday, Choe did not show up at a key meeting on the eve of the 82nd anniversary of the founding of North Korea's military, fueling speculation on his political fate.
Still, Choe appeared by wearing a military uniform in a session of the Central Military Commission, according to a photo released by the KCNA on Sunday.
Unification ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said there is little possibility that Choe was purged, citing the lack of North Korea's official announcement on key political meetings on purges.
He also cited Choe's recent promotion to new vice chairman of the North's powerful National Defense Commission as a reason that lowered the possibility of the purge.
On Dec. 8, Jang Song-thaek, leader Kim's once-powerful uncle and a vice chairman of the commission, was dismissed from all posts during the party's political bureau meeting and whisked away by two uniformed military officers. Four days later, Jang was executed on charges of treason.
In a massive rally held just days after the bloody purge, Choe vowed to track down and kill those who do not follow Kim's leadership by citing his father's legendary case of loyalty.
In December, the North's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, mentioned Choe's late father's case as an example of protecting the country's founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader.
Choe Hyon, who served as a vice defense minister, pulled a pistol during a key party meeting in 1956 on the opposition in a factional strife against Kim Il-sung. The senior Choe's move dampened the spirits of those who opposed Kim, who later purged his political opponents. (Yonhap)