N. Korea's former number-two, Hwang Pyong-so, sent for 'ideological education'

국정원 "총정치국장직 황병서 해임... 풍계리 3번 갱도 언제든 핵실험 가능"
And inside North Korea,... signs of possible shift within its power structure.
South Korea's intelligence agency says Hwang Pyong-so , the head of the military's General Political Bureau,... may no longer be the regime's second most powerful man.
Oh Jung-hee with more.
The man who had been considered the second most powerful person in North Korea... appears to be so no longer.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service said Monday at a parliamentary briefing... that Hwang Pyong-so, who was the director of General Political Bureau within the North Korean army,... has been dismissed -- and is now receiving so-called ideological education.
The post is now occupied by Kim Jong-gak -- former Vice Minister of the People's Armed Forces.
According to the NIS,... several more others in the bureau including its vice chief... have also been dismissed or purged.

This... after the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea held a rare inspection of the Bureau... for three months starting last October,... citing what it called the Bureau's "impure attitude."
The inspection was the first of its kind in 20 years.
Experts believe Hwang Pyong-so had been in a power struggle with Choe Ryong-hae,... the vice chairman of the ruling party's central committee.

"Having Hwang 're-educated' on the party's ideology and making him write self-reflections can't really be seen as purging him. There's a high possibility he could be put back in power. I'd say that Hwang was temporarily pushed away in his fight for power with Choe."

The regime's leader Kim Jong-un has not engaged in any military activities yet this year.
His six public appearances so far -- half the number at this point last year -- were focused on visits to private facilities.
But the South Korean intelligence agency noted... that out of several underground tunnels at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site,... Tunnel 3 is always ready for a nuclear test.
The agency is also keeping a close eye on the February 8th military parade... as it could reveal a wide variety of its missiles.

According to the NIS, the regime saw the largest trade deficit in its history in 2017... of almost 2 billion U.S. dollars due to UN sanctions.
It stole tens of millions of dollar worth virtual currency by hacking South Korea's cryptocurrency exchanges... and launched cyber attacks against Seoul's security agencies, defense firms and anti-Pyongyang organizations.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.

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