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Military hardliner Choe Ryong-hae rises as N. Korea's No. 2

Updated: 2013-12-17 (KST)
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It appears North Korea's military politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae has replaced Jang Song-thaek as the state's second most powerful man.
As many had expected, the bureaucrat-turned-military official was seated right next to Kim Jong-un during a national ceremony marking the second anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il.
Choe's seat was one seat closer to Kim Jong-un than he was at last year's ceremony signaling his promotion.
Speculation is also rife that Choe, who is known to be a hardliner in the military, was one of the main figures behind the expulsion and execution of Jang, who was a moderate.
Next to Choe, were Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army Ri Yong-gil and Minister of the People's Armed Forces Jang Jong-nam.
To Kim Jong-un's right, was Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and the nominal second in command, who got the ceremony started with a keynote speech.
Prime Minister Park Bong-ju, who's in charge of North Korea's economic reform plans, was seated next to him.
Despite concerns that more Jang Song-thaek followers will be purged, some of his close aides were present at the ceremony.
But Kim Kyung-hui, Jang's wife and the daughter of the state founder Kim Il-sung, was absent, presumably for health reasons.

Although Kim Jong-un's wife Ri Sol-ju was also absent from the ceremony,.. she made an appearance with Kim Jong-un at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the bodies of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il lie in state.
This was Ri's first public appearance since October.
Han Da-eun, Arirang News.

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