Military hardliner Choe Ryong-hae rises as N. Korea's No. 2Updated: 2013-12-18 (KST)
It appears North Korea's military politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae has replaced Kim Jong-un's executed uncle 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 Kim Jong-il, where he pledged allegiance to the North's young leader.
"We revolutionary forces will honor no one else but our great leader Kim Jong-un. We will protect our one and only supreme commander through all the hardships."
Choe's seat was one seat closer to Kim Jong-un than at last year's ceremony signaling a promotion.
Speculation is also rife that Choe, who is known to be a military hardliner, 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 would be purged, some of his former 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 also didn't take part,.. she did make an appearance with Kim Jong-un at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the bodies of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il lie in state.
It was Ri's first public appearance since October.
Han Da-eun, Arirang News.
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