SEOUL — Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, has removed from a top military post an official who was widely considered number two in the Kim government, according to a report Friday in the country’s state-run media.
For the past two years, the official, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, has been head of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean People’s Army, the second-most powerful military post. Kim is the supreme commander.
Choe is widely believed to have also been the second-most influential person in the North Korean government, a position he apparently cemented after Jang Song Thaek, Kim’s uncle and the previous presumed number two, was executed in December on charges of plotting to unseat his nephew.
On Friday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency revealed Choe’s dismissal when it identified Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong So as the military’s new top political officer while reporting on Hwang’s visit to a textile workers’ dormitory the previous day.
It remained unclear whether Choe was also removed from the other powerful posts he had gained under Kim: He has been a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and a vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission.
Choe has diabetes. South Korean officials and analysts said his illness had worsened in recent months, and he was less frequently seen accompanying Kim in his public activities.