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Choe Ryong Hae emerges as Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man

Posted May. 23, 2013 07:42,   


Choe Ryong Hae, 63, chief of the general politburo of the North Korean People’s Army, visited China Wednesday as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s special envoy. Choe has instantly emerged as key power elite of the North Korean leadership due to backing of Jang Song Thaek, the vice chairman of the North’s powerful National Defense Commission, in the course of establishing succession to the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Along with Jang, who serves as the “guardian" of Kim Jong Un, Choe is one of the effective “duo” who spearhead the Kim Jong Un regime.

Choe was the figure who received the late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun at the inter-Korean military demarcation line in 2007 when Roh visited North Korea to hold a second inter-Korean summit.

Choe is a civilian-turned politician, which is something unusual in North Korean leadership. After serving as the chief secretary of North Hamkyong provincial chapter of North Korean Workers` Party, he changed his attire into military uniform and emerged as a general in September 2010, when Kim Jong Un emerged as Kim Jong Il’s successor. In May 2012 when the Kim Jong Un regime was officially inaugurated, Choe took key posts, including the chief of the military’s general politburo, member of the National Defense Commission, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers` Party, and executive member of the politburo of the committee. He has thus positioned himself as a supreme heavyweight of the military under the Kim Jong Un regime, which pursues military first politics.

In reality, Choe has been closely following Kim at virtually all events, including Kim’s official inspection visits, and displaying his influence. He has also accompanied Kim when the young North Korean leader paid a visit to guide a real ammunition firing drill by an artillery unit for striking South Korea’s northwestern islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong in March this year.

Choe’s family has had long relationship with China as well. His father Choe Hyon, former minister of the People’s Armed Force, was active as a member of the anti-Japanese troops in northeast China and was a famed commander of communist partisans, who formed compatriotic relations with North Korean founder Kim Il Sung during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea. Back then, Choe Hyon was highly loyal to Kim Il Sung and also significantly contributed to establishing the Kim Jong Il regime as Kim Il Sung’s successor. For this reason, Choe Hyon was well respected by Kim Jong Il and the North Korean military. Choe Ryong Hae’s biological mother is also known as a member of first generation pro-communist partisan group, who was active as member of the anti-Japanese troops in northeast China. A South Korean military source said, “Kim Jong Un apparently judged that Choe was the ideal figure as his special envoy to spotlight special ties of the North Korea-China alliance.”

Choe, a key member of the post-Korean War era forces born in the 1950s and 1960s, who has emerged as “core” of the Kim Jong Un regime, has reportedly spearheaded changes in the North Korean military, including forcing out hard-line veterans’ group within the military who were discontent of or lukewarm towards the Kim Jong Un regime. Rumors had it that when Ri Yong Ho was dismissed as chief of the North Korean People’s Army General Staff in July last year, Choe played a certain role.