Hwang Pyong-so, North Korean apparatchik who has recently risen from obscurity to the rank of vice marshal, may have replaced a long-serving hardliner in the top military position.
Hwang may have replaced Choe Ryong-hae, who was regarded as the most powerful man behind the throne, as military politburo chief.
The speculation was fuelled during a visit by leader Kim Jong-un to a textile mill dormitory in Pyongyang accompanied by Hwang and others on Wednesday.
The [North] Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as calling for the workers there to be celebrated "on a grand scale" on May Day. "The military politburo chief should attend the event to congratulate the workers," Kim said in Hwang's presence.
Since Choe, who until recently held the post, was absent, Kim may have been referring to Hwang.
A source said, "It seems that Kim was giving instructions to Hwang, which supports the speculation that Hwang has been promoted to the military politburo chief."
Hwang was seen in a uniform with the insignia of vice marshal for the first time. When he still was first deputy director of the Workers Party's Organization and Guidance Department, he usually wore a Mao suit.
Meanwhile, rumors say that the septuagenarian Choe, who has not been seen in public for several weeks, is in hospital for treatment of a chronic disease or has had a fall.