N.Korean Apparatchik Reappears at Leader's Side

      January 21, 2016 10:56

      North Korean Workers Party secretary Choe Ryong-hae smiles with leader Kim Jong-un during an inspection on Tuesday, in this video grab from [North] Korean Central TV. /Yonhap

      North Korea's elderly comeback kid Choe Ryong-hae accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during an official engagement on Tuesday, suggesting he has once again returned to favor -- if indeed he ever fell from it.

      Choe was last seen in public on Oct. 19 last year, and there followed rumors that he had been sacked and sent to a reeducation camp. But on Tuesday he was by Kim's side during an inspection of a revolutionary memorial, the Rodong Sinmun daily said Wednesday.

      Choe emerged as North Korea's No. 2 official after former eminence grise Jang Song-taek was purged, but his name was omitted from an important official roster in November, fanning speculation he was also purged.

      However, Choe's name was included on the roster of the funeral committee for United Front Department director Kim Yang-gon, who died in a mysterious car accident late last year. That more or less laid the rumors to rest until he was absent again from the traditional New Year's homage at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the embalmed remains of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are displayed.

      He was recently spotted in TV footage with his right leg only about half as thick as the left. This fanned fresh speculation that he had surgery on the leg in the time he disappeared from the radar.

      In the latest Rodong Sinmun article, Choe's name is mentioned right after Army politburo chief Hwang Pyong-so, demonstrating that he remains a key figure in the regime.

      Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong was also spotted for the first time in three months. There were rumors that she was pregnant after she vanished from view in October. 

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