Another N.Korean Bigwig Being Purged?

North Korea's military politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae, who was considered the new power behind the throne after the execution of Jang Song-taek, is rumored to be behind bars.

Free North Korea Radio on Feb. 28 cited sources in Pyongyang as saying Choe was "being interrogated behind bars."

Why is not known, but pundits speculate he fell out with leader Kim Jong-un's favor in the process of seizing hold of various state businesses after Jang's execution or was seen as a threat to Kim's absolute control.

Until last year, Choe was the official who most frequently accompanied Kim on field trips, but in the first couple of months this year he fell to third place. The same thing happened to Jang, who was the official most often seen by Kim's side until 2012.

Intelligence agents here speculated that Choe would sooner or later be purged.

Despite being the chief ideological watchdog and propaganda specialist in the military, he was absent from major events such as a performance for military officers on Feb. 18 and a Workers Party rally that ended on Feb. 25.

But South Korean government officials warn against jumping to conclusions. "There is no concrete information so we need to wait and see until the Supreme People's Assembly convenes on March 9," one said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 03, 2014 09:26 KST