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North Korea's Second Most Powerful Official After Kim Jong Un Vanishes, Raising Fears of Execution

Sofia Lotto Persio
,
Newsweek•December 14, 2017


The continued absence of one of North Korea’s top officials, General Hwang Pyong So, from leader Kim Jong Un's side continues to fuel speculation that he has fallen from favor and may have been executed.

Director of the hugely influential General Political Bureau of the North Korean military—the body that is tasked with ensuring ideological commitment within the ranks of the army—Hwang has reportedly been expelled from the Workers’ Party, where he previously served in a senior position in the politburo.

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Korea JoongAng Daily that Hwang was purged from the party for taking bribes. The source did not specify when the expulsion took place.

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12_13_Hwang
North Korean director of the military's General Political Bureau, the top military post in North Korea, Hwang Pyong So, right, waves during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea on October 4, 2014. Hwang has not been seen in public in more than two months. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images " data-reactid="31" style="margin-bottom: 1em;">North Korean director of the military's General Political Bureau, the top military post in North Korea, Hwang Pyong So, right, waves during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea on October 4, 2014. Hwang has not been seen in public in more than two months. Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images



Although North Korea is fiercely secretive and its politics opaque, state-controlled media usually lists the names of officials attending public events, allowing analysts to speculate on who is in and out of favor. Hwang’s name did not appear on reports of Kim climbing the top of Mount Paektu—North Korea’s sacred mountain—over the weekend, while Choe's did.

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Hwang was also missing from the country’s eighth conference of munitions industry this week, despite having been heavily involved in the development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Purges of top officials are fairly frequent under Kim’s rule, with the young leader keen to make examples of those who make mistakes or amass too much influence as a means to maintain an unchallenged grip on power.

 

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