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Hwang Pyong-so’s new title revealed in North

Aug 14,2018
Hwang Pyong-so, a powerful aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and head of the North Korean Army’s General Political Bureau before being sacked last year, has been rehabilitated and made first vice department director of the Central Committee within the ruling Workers’ Party.

After vanishing from official media reports last October, Hwang reemerged in February as part of Kim’s entourage at a ceremony marking the 76th birthday of the late leader Kim Jong-il. He was caught on camera but not identified by state media.

In early July, Hwang was shown accompanying Kim on a visit to Sindo County in North Pyongan Province near the Chinese border for a so-called “field guidance” inspection, where the leader visits facilities and offers input. North Korean media specifically mentioned Hwang’s name and said he was a “senior official” on the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, but did not specify his rank. A report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Monday was the first time the country’s official media spelled out his new position. North Korea never explained Hwang’s disappearance last year.

KCNA identified Hwang as a first vice department director of the Central Committee on Monday while reporting on Kim’s field guidance inspection of the Ungok Area General Stock Farm in South Pyongan Province. Hwang was said to have accompanied Kim on the visit. KCNA did not specify which department Hwang was first vice director of.

For months, Hwang’s fate was a mystery. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said last October that he and a deputy in the North Korean Army’s General Political Bureau, Kim Wong-hong, were disciplined during a probe led by Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, for holding “impure attitudes” toward Kim Jong-un.

South Korean officials said at the time that Kim Jong-un was trying to crack down on overly powerful agencies, a tactic that goes back to 2013, when the young leader executed his own uncle and political mentor, Jang Song-thaek, by having the State Security Ministry interrogate him and find him guilty of trying to overthrow the government.

Last February, the South’s spy agency told local lawmakers during a parliamentary briefing that Hwang was undergoing ideological reeducation. Kim Jong-gak, a former defense minister, succeeded Hwang in the post of director of the Army’s General Politburo, but his term only lasted from January to May. Kim Su-gil, former chairman of the Pyongyang City Committee of the Workers’ Party, took over afterward.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]