Last year, South Korean lawmakers announced their northern neighbor’s leader, Kim Jong Un, had sent one of his top confidantes, Choe Ryong Hae, to a rural North Korean farm to participate in a “re-education” program.
This punishment was apparently deemed necessary because Choe was found responsible for structural problems at a power plant near the Chinese border.
But months later, the second most powerful politician in North Korea appears to have redeemed himself in the eyes of his supreme leader: Choe arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Thursday to oversee the North Korean delegation attending the summer Olympics set to begin Friday. Pyongyang sent 31 athletes to Brazil, where they will compete in a wide range of sports from archery and weightlifting to table tennis.
Choe, who serves as vice chairman of North Korea’s Workers’ Party Central Committee, is also chairman of the national sports guidance committee, a role he took over after his predecessor, Kim’s uncle Jang Song Taek, left the job and was executed for treason in 2013.
According to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, Choe started his journey to the Olympics by stopping first in Beijing, where he is believed to have engaged in high-level talks with Chinese officials. He then flew to Cuba, where he may have just refueled before landing in Brazil.
Photo credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images