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One of N. Korea's richest men said to serve in assembly hall

All Headlines 15:29 February 19, 2012

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- Cha Chol-ma, known as one of North Korea's richest men, has been confirmed to be serving in a top position at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, the seat of the North's legislative body, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA).

In a Saturday TV program on the late leader Kim Jong-il's Feb. 16 birthday, Cha was briefly interviewed, saying that the Mansudae Assembly Hall was decorated with thousands of bouquets of flowers out of its workers' respect for Kim Jong-il, who reportedly died of heart failure last December.

"All of the workers at the Mansudae Assembly Hall are deeply grieving the sudden demise of the great general Kim Jong-il," Cha said in the interview carried by the Korean Central Broadcasting Station.

Cha, who formerly served at the foreign ministry and engaged in trade and commerce with China, is alleged to have earned more than US$10 million by monopolizing foreign currency earning businesses run by SPA's standing committees. He is also said to have expanded his wealth and business knowledge while serving as a diplomat at the North's embassies in China and Pakistan.

Cha is a son-in-law of the late Ri Je-gang, who died in a traffic accident in June 2010 after long serving as one of Kim Jong-il's most trusted aides, triggering speculation that he had received a lot of help from Ri in the process of accumulating his fortune.

Meanwhile, North Korean general Park Jae-kyung, who masterminded a campaign to idolize Ko Yong-hui, the mother of Kim Jong-un, returned to the General Political Bureau of the People's Army to be apparently in charge of overseeing a drive to idolize the new North Korean leader within the military.

Defectors in South Korea said the North had previously idolized the mothers of the country's founder Kim Il-sung and his son, late leader Kim Jong-il, to help the two Kims strengthen their power base.

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