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Trio of military power elite including Choe emerge in N. Korea
DECEMBER 18, 2013 00:20  
A memorial ceremony for the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il뭩 death, the largest event in the Stalinist state since the execution of Jang Song Thaek, took place on Tuesday. This year뭩 ceremony was not significantly different from last year뭩 except that the event happened on December 16, the eve of the anniversary day. Kim Kyong Hui, secretary of the Workers Party who drew attention, failed to attend, while figures who newly emerged as power elite under the Kim Jong Un regime made appearance on the platform for leadership en masse. Senior officials who were classified as Jang뭩 line also were seen sitting at the leadership platform, confirming that they have avoided the purging thus far.

○ Trio of military power elite including Choe Ryong Hae emerge

The North뭩 Korea Central TV station broadcast live the memorial ceremony for about one hour from 11 a.m. on Tuesday. At the leadership platform, Kim Yong Nam, executive chairman of the Supreme People뭩 Assembly, and Choe Ryong Hae, director of the Korean People`s Army General Political Bureau, were sitting on both sides of the North뭩 leader Kim Jong Un. On the first anniversary event last year, Choe Chun Sik, the director of the second natural science institute who contributed to the launch of a rocket, was sitting between Kim and Choe Ryong Hae. Considering that Kim Yong Nam is a post of formality who externally serves as the head of state, the new seating arrangement suggests that Choe Ryong Hae positioned himself as the undisputed No. 2 man since Jang뭩 execution.

Notably, Choe Ryong Hae is distancing himself from Jang by underscoring his family뭩 loyalty to the family of Mount Baekdu (Kim Jong Un) that has lasted for generations. Choe Ryong Hae뭩 father, Choe Hyon, jointly staged anti-Japanese independence fight as communist with North Korea뭩 founder Kim Il Sung, and is a figure admired in the North for his lifetime royalty to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

All the military leaders except Choe have been replaced with new figures as well. Ri Yong Gil, the chief of Army General Staff, and Jang Jong Nam, Defense Minister, were seen sitting by Choe Ryong Hae on the leadership platform this year. At last year뭩 event, sitting by Jang, who was executed last Thursday, were Hyon Yong Chol, then chief of the Army General Staff, and Kim Kyok Sik, then Defense Minister.

After being named the director of the operational bureau at the Army General Chief early this year, Ri Yong Gil was named the Chief of the Army General Staff. Having served as the commander of the 5th Division at the frontlines in Kangwon Province, Ri is considered a member of the young faction highly royal to Kim Jong Un. When Choe Ryong Hae was visiting China as Kim Jong Un뭩 special envoy last May, Ri accompanied the former, demonstrating his stature as a member of the North뭩 military power elite.

Jang Jong Nam is another figure who fast emerged this year. After being promoted to lieutenant general in November 2011, he was swiftly promoted two ranks to the full general two years later, which illustrates Kim Jong Un뭩 deep confidence in him. Notably, given that Jang is in his 50s, he is one of the figures representing the new generation in the North Korean military leadership.

Key figures of the State Security Department, which reportedly spearheaded Jang뭩 purging, and the department뭩 leadership also appeared at the leadership platform at the event. Kim Won Hong, State Security Minister, was sitting at eighth to Kim Jong Un뭩 right, and Cho Yon Jun, the first vice minister at the organizational guidance department, was at 14th. An informed source on North Korean affairs in Seoul said, 밫o have power to further concentrate on Kim Jong Un, additional people will be purged for some time and the State Security Department and the organizational guidance department will play a central role in the process.

○ Late Jang뭩 confidents also make appearance

Figures whose whereabouts were uncertain due to their direct and indirect connection with Jang Song Thaek appeared on the leadership platform. No Doo Chol, Vice Cabinet Minister who was rumored to have 뱓aken asylum according to news reports in South Korea, Moon Kyong Dok, a senior secretary at the Workers Party for Pyongyang City, and Kim Yang Kon, director of the United Front Department (UFD), and Choe Bu Il, director of the People뭩 Security Department, were all sitting on the platform. They had already been revealed to be safe from purging because they made the member lists of the funeral organizing committee for Kim Kuk Tae, chairman of the Workers Party audit committee, but they demonstrated anew their safety by showing up on the leadership platform on Tuesday.

Figures sitting on the leadership platform were seen clapping whenever memorial speeches and speech of resolve were paused, drawing attention from viewers. Analysts say such behaviors are a result of learning effect from Jang뭩 execution. In the ruling statement on Jang뭩 execution, the North Korean authority blasted Jang that he was only clapping as formality, in displaying acts of arrogance and disrespect. Choe Ryong Hae, sitting right by Kim Jong Un, put up his hands up to his face, and enthusiastically clapped.

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