North Korea is playing musical chairs again in its top leadership rungs.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Wednesday that Hwang Pyong-so, the North Korean military’s top political officer, has been been promoted to the post of member of the politburo presidium of the nation’s political party. Pyongyang’s media said Wednesday that the elevation makes Hwang again the second most powerful person in North Korea after supreme leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korean TV reportedly described Hwang as doubling the posts of a member of the political bureau presidium of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)’s central committee as well as a director of the general political bureau of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).
Hwang’s latest promotion confirmed earlier speculation that he’s become the North’s defacto No. 2 man after he replaced Choe Ryong-hae, the WPK’s secretary in an elaborate political waltz..
Choe and Hwang’s leadership standings have shifted variously since last year. It began when Kim Jong-un tapped Hwang as the military’s top political officer, seemingly vaulting him to the No. 2 slot.
But Choe angled his way back to the No. 2 post in October, less than one month after making a surprise visit to South Korea to attend the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games on Oct. 4 with Hwang.
The question of who occupies the second spot in North Korea’s government has been problematic since 2013’s purge and execution of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek. Likely successors have been playing musical chairs ever since. For the moment, Hwang appears to be second in command.
Analysts told Yonhap that Hwang’s promotion may have been cinched when Kim presided over a meeting in February to deal with personnel reshuffling.
The political bureau presidium of the WPK central committee is a key organ in North Korea. It was previously made up of three members – Kim, figurehead leader Kim Yong-nam and Choe.