In a report published on the country’s May Day celebrations, the North Korean government mouthpiece KCNA news agency named Hwang Pyong-so, one of Kim Jong Un’s closest confidantes, as director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army.
The role is the top military position after Kim, who is supreme commander of the armed forces.
Previously, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae held the position. While in the job, Choe was widely regarded by North Korea watchers as second only to Kim in terms of political clout. However, speculation about his position has been rife following reports that he may have been arrested, some months ago.
In the same piece that effectively coronated Hwang, Choe was referred to as a party secretary in charge of labor groups — a relatively minor position.
A Unification Ministry source told the New York Times that it is unlikely that Choe has been purged.
Seasoned North Korea watchers echo the line. An editorial on the independent specialist site NK News said that “it appears … Choe is not being purged so much as being gradually phased out of power,” while 38 North said that the news showed “so far no indication that it represents another broad purge such as occurred with Jang Song Thaek last December.”