Hwang Pyong-so speculated to be Kim Jong-un's new confidantUpdated: 2014-05-02 06:46:51 (KST)
When North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a newly-built textile mill in Pyongyang on Wednesday, he was accompanied by Hwang Pyong-so.
Here, Kim ordered the military politburo chief to congratulate the workers in celebration of May Day.
"Leader Kim called for May Day to be celebrated on a grand scale and ordered the military politburo chief to attend the event to congratulate the workers."
But Choe Ryong-hae, a long-serving hardliner in the North Korean military brass, is not seen in the photos from that day.
He's also absent from the list of officials who accompanied the young leader.
"The leader was accompanied by comrades Hwang Pyong-so , Pak Yong-sik and Ma Won-chun ."
This has fueled speculation that Hwang may have replaced Choe as the military politburo chief.
North Korea watchers are keeping a close eye on the rapid rise of Hwang, who was promoted to the position of vice marshal less than two weeks after being put in the ranks of a four-star general.
Hwang reportedly led last year's purge of Jang Song-thaek, who was once the second-most powerful man in North Korea.
Experts say Hwang's speedy promotion may be intended to cap the power of Choe, the regime's current number two.
As for Choe, who has vanished from public sight in recent weeks, the rumors are that he has been hospitalized due to complications from diabetes and fatigue.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.
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What a mess.