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Pyon In Son Head of Operations Bureau?

16 Sep
KPA Colonel General (L) attending to Kim Jong Un at the 9 September 2013 WPRG parade and Col. Gen. Pyon In Son (R) (Photos:  KCTV screengrab, KCNA).

KPA Colonel General (L) attending to Kim Jong Un at the 9 September 2013 WPRG parade and Col. Gen. Pyon In Son (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrab, KCNA).

Has Col. Gen. Pyon In Son been appointed director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA]  General Staff Operations Bureau [GSOB] ?

Film footage of the military parade and demonstration on the 65th anniversary of the country’s foundation on 9 September 2013 shows a KPA officer who resembles Col. Gen. Pyon briefing Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) during the Worker-Peasant Red Guards’ parade.  Since the Kim Jong Il era, one of the Operations Bureau director’s ceremonial functions is to brief the KPA Supreme Commander during a military or reserve unit parade, or military exercise.  If Col. Gen. Pyon was briefing Kim Jong Un during the WPRG parade then he has replaced previous GSOB director Ri Yong Gil.  Ri was recently promoted to four-star general and appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff, replacing Gen. Kim Kyok Sik.

KPA Colonel General (top) attending to Kim Jong Un at the 9 September 2013 WPRG parade and Col. Gen. Pyon In Son (bottom) (Photos:  KCTV screengrab, Xinhua, KCNA-Yonhap).

KPA Colonel General (top) attending to Kim Jong Un at the 9 September 2013 WPRG parade and Col. Gen. Pyon In Son (bottom) (Photos: KCTV screengrab, Xinhua, KCNA-Yonhap).

Directors of the General Staff Operations Bureau at previous military parades. 1. General Kim Myong Guk in Octoner 2010; 2. Gen Choe Pu il In April 2012; 3. Gen. Ri Yong Gil in July 2013 (Photos: CCTV, KCTV screengrabs).

Directors of the General Staff Operations Bureau at previous military parades. 1. General Kim Myong Guk in Octoner 2010; 2. Gen Choe Pu il In April 2012; 3. Gen. Ri Yong Gil in July 2013 (Photos: CCTV, KCTV screengrabs).

The KPA General Staff (Photo: NK Leadership Watch).

The KPA General Staff (Photo: NK Leadership Watch).

The directorate of the  GSOB is one of the most powerful positions in the DPRK’s national security community.  The GSOB is responsible for the daily operational management and administration of the KPA’s conventional forces.  It interfaces with all KPA corps-level units to implement DPRK military planning, strategy and operations plans, as well as assessing combat readiness.  It also formulates and implements military training for all KPA conventional units, the Pyongyang Defense Command and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces.  During a war or national crisis, command and control over KPA forces passes from the core leadership directly to the Operations Bureau.

Pyon In Son’s last reported position, as of July 2013, was  Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces,.  From August 2011 until April 2013, Col. Gen. Pyon served as commanding officer of the IV Army Corps.  From about 2007 to 2011 he served as Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.  He led a KPA delegation on an official visit to China in October 2010.  Prior to his appointment at the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, Pyon was commanding officer of the VII Army Corps in South Hamgyo’ng Province.  Col. Gen. Pyon has patronage links to VMar Kim Yong Chun, Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission and current Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Civil Defense Department.

If Pyon has been appointed director of the GSOB then it indicates that Kim Jong Un applies a similar criteria in selecting the GSOB chief as his father, having selected someone with a career both in military administration (such as at MPAF or the General Staff) and field command experience and holding the rank of Colonel General.  Being former commander of the IV Army Corps, Pyon’s possible appointment to the GSOB would also mean another new member of the KPA’s high command whose immediate past field experience was at one of the four frontline (1st echelon) corps units.  These are the KPA ground force units stationed in areas along the inter-Korean border, the Military Demarcation Line and the North Limit Line.   Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Jang Jong Nam (appointed in May 2013) commanded the I Army Corps and Ri Yong Gil (appointed Chief of the General Staff in August 2013 and GSOB director in February 2012) commanded the V Army Corps.

DPRK Documentary Film Shows Kim Jong Il Inspecting Nodong, KN-08 Missiles

28 Aug
Late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il stands close to a TEL carrying a version of the Nodong medium-rang ballistic missile during a guidance visit that appears to be from the early 2000s.  The image is from a documentary film aired  by DPRK state media to mark the 53rd anniversary of Military-First (So'ngun) Revolutionary Leadership (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il stands close to a TEL carrying a version of the Nodong medium-rang ballistic missile during a guidance visit that appears to be from the early 2000s. The image is from a documentary film aired by DPRK state media to mark the 53rd anniversary of Military-First (So’ngun) Revolutionary Leadership (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

To mark the 53rd anniversary of Military-First (So’ngun) Revolutionary Leadership, DPRK state media aired another installment of the documentary film series General Kim Jong Il’s Matchless Patriotic  Defense of the Country.  The film splices together a variety of footage of Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) conducting field inspections of Korean People’s Army [KPA] units, KPA economic activity and arms and munitions factories.  During scenes of his visits to arms factories, Kim Jong Il is shown touring an unknown weapons production facility  during the early 2000s.  In the scene KJI is shown standing next to a Nodong medium-range ballistic missile on a TEL (transporter-erector-launcher).  Footage from the same visit also shows what is possibly the fabled KN-08 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.  It is not clear where this visit occurred, although possibilities include one of the machine factories in Jagang (Chagang) Province, a building at the Sanum-dong Research Facility in northern Pyongyang, the Tae-sung Machine Factory outside Namp’o or some other factory  under the Second Economy Commission (Second Economic Committee) or the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

Transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) carrying a version of the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) carrying a version of the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Nose cone of a Nodong medium-rang ballistic missile (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Nose cone of a Nodong medium-rang ballistic missile (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

View of what is possibly the KN-08 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile on what appears to be the WS51200 TEL (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

View of what appears to be the KN-08 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile on a TEL (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

View of another mobile ballistic missile at what appears to be an arms factory or development facility (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

View of another mobile ballistic missile at what appears to be an arms factory or development facility (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Former Minister of People’s Security Ju Sang Song Appeared at War Anniversary Events

7 Aug
Former Minister of People's Security Ju Sang Song (C) talks with fellow Korean War veterans at the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang on 26 July 2013 (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Former Minister of People’s Security Ju Sang Song (C) talks with fellow Korean War veterans at the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang on 26 July 2013 (Photo: KCTV screengrab).

Ju Sang Song (Chu Sang-so’ng), who served as Minister of People’s Security from 2004 to 2011, appeared on Korean Central Television [KCTV] evening news on 26 July visiting the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery on Mt. Taeso’ng in Pyongyang with other veterans of the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War).  Previously a four-star general (taejang), Ju appeared on the news wearing two stars on his shoulder board indicating he now holds the rank of Lieutenant General (chungjang).  According to a 29 July report by Yonhap during the news broadcast, Ju is seen talking with other veterans in front of the memorials to Choe Hyon and Ryu Kyong Su.  Ju joined the Korean People’s Army [KPA] in June 1951, after the outbreak of the Korean War, and later attended Kim Il Sung Military Academy.  Ju held a number command positions in the KPA’s ground forces and was appointed to his first political office when he was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Committee at the 5th Party Congress in November 1970.  He was later removed as Party Central Committee Alternate.  In 1997, Ju Sang Song was appointed commander of the IV Army Corps and in 2004 he was appointed Minister of People’s Security.  In April 2009 Ju was elected a member of the DPRK National Defense Commission and in September 2010 was elected a full member of the Party Central Committee and a full member of the KWP Political Bureau.

Top image: Ju Sang Song brings a floral bouquet to the memorial to Kim Jong Su, mother of KWP Secretary and Political Bureau Member Kim Kyong Hui and her brother late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il.  Bottom image: Ju Sang Song talks with fellow war veterans at the cemetery (Photos: KCTV screengrabs).

Top image: Ju Sang Song brings a floral bouquet to the memorial to Kim Jong Su, mother of KWP Secretary and Political Bureau Member Kim Kyong Hui and her brother late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il. Bottom image: Ju Sang Song talks with fellow war veterans at the cemetery (Photos: KCTV screengrabs).

In March 2011 he was removed from office as the Minister of People’s Security and an NDC Member due to what the NDC said was ill health.  Somereports claimed that Ju was dismissed because he did not demonstrate the proper concern and vigilance in investigating and arresting university students who allegedly vandalized the birthplace and childhood home of the late DPRK President and founder, Kim Il Sung, in Mangyo’ngdae.  Yonhap, citing anonymous ROK government sources, reports that he “was dismissed for accepting bribes” and  “being caught in individual corruption during the Workers Party organizational guidance division’s investigation.”  According to Yonhap after his dismissal Ju Sang Song was assigned to work as the chief of people’s security in Taedong County, South P’yo’ngan Province, although it also noted that “it has not been verified which position Ju Sang Song is currently holding or whether he is receiving ‘veteran treatment’ after retiring.”

Ju Sang Song was not the only senior DPRK officials who was disappeared or dismissed to show up at the anniversary events held in late July.  Attending the opening of the Fatherland Liberation War Martyrs’ Cemetery, held on 25 July, were former Minister of People’s Security (2011-2013) Gen. Ri Myong Su (who replaced Ju Sang Song), Senior Vice Minister of State Security Gen. U Tong Chuk and former Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Gen. Pak Jae Gyong.   Gen. Ri Myong Su also visited the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery, as did former chief of the KPA GeneralStaff Operations Bureau, Gen. Kim Myong Guk.

Minister of People’s Security Reclaims 4th Star

12 Jun

Gen. Choe Pu Il, Minister of the People's Security (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Gen. Choe Pu Il, Minister of the People’s Security (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

DPRK state media reported that Choe Pu Il, Minister of the People’s Security, was restored to his previous rank of four-star General (taejang) per an order of Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).  Choe Pu Il was first promoted to General by late leader Kim Jong Il on 28 September 2010.  Choe’s name appeared on a promotions list which also elevated Kim Jong Un, Choe Ryong Hae (current Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department; later elevated to Vice Marshal [ch'asu]) Kim Kyong Ok (Senior Deputy (vice) Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Organization Guidance Department), Hyon Yong Chol (then-commander of VIII Army Corps; served as Chief of the KPA General Staff from July 2012 to May 2013 and currently commander of V Army Corps) and Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Jong Un’s aunt and a core member of the DPRK leadership).  Choe was rumored to have been reduced rank to three-star Colonel-General (sangjang) in late 2011, although it is not clear what prompted his demotion.  From about 2012 until February 2013 Choe Pu Il served as the Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau.  In February he was appointed Minister of the People’s Security, where he replaced Gen. Ri Myong Su.  On 31 March 2013, Choe was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the KWP Political Bureau and at the 7th session (plenum) of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] on 1 April 2013 Choe was elected a member of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC].

According to KCNA, the Ministry of the People’s Security [MPS] and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF] “together with the Korean People’s Army constitute armed groups which play the role of two mainstays of the Korean revolution” and in issuing the promotion order Kim Jong Un “expressed belief that all service persons of the people’s security organ and the KPISF would creditably perform their honorable mission and duty as the first-line soldiers protecting the socialist system, remaining loyal to the leadership of the party.” Rodong Sinmun reported that Choe Pu Il’s rank was restored because “The organ of people’s security and the people’s internal security forces are two leading armed groups that, together with the people’s army, form twin pillars of our revolution.  In the past period, members of the public security corps and the officers and men of the people’s internal security forces performed great feats that will forever shine in the history of the fatherland by highly demonstrating boundless devotion and sacrifice in the sacred struggle to defend the party, system, and the people both in the days of glory and days of ordeals while highly upholding the banner of death-defying defense of the leader” and that “the prevailing situation urgently demands the organ of the people’s security and the people’s internal security forces, which are the revolutionary armed forces of our party, to impregnably guard the gateway of the socialist system and to reliably guarantee, with gun barrels and law, the party’s line on simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear armed forces.”

Graphic of the key bureaus of the Ministry of the People's Security (Graphic by Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

Graphic of the key bureaus of the Ministry of the People’s Security (Graphic by Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

Ministry of People's Security headquarters (Photo: Google image)

Ministry of People’s Security headquarters (Photo: Google image)

Choe Pu Il’s February 2013 appointment as Minister created a superficial gap in the power balance among the DPRK’s internal security agencies.  His counterpart at the Ministry of State Security, Kim Won Hong, was a four-star general.  The formal military rankings of these agencies’ leading officials suggest that the one led by a full-general has a more superior position, and valued more by the leader, than an agency led by a three-star general.  Based on his observed and reported public activities, Kim Jong Un appeared to be favoring the Ministry of State Security over the Ministry of the People’s Security.  Both ministries erected statues of late leader Kim Jong Il on the campuses of their respective headquarters, however Kim Jong Un visited the Ministry of State Security after it unveiled its KJI statue, but not the MPS.  The MPS, however, demonstrated its political clout in 2012 when KPISF commander, Gen. Kim In Sik, was appointed Vice Premier of the DPRK Cabinet and later appointed Chairman of the Capital City (Pyongyang) Construction Commission.  Kim Jong Un visited People’s Security headquarters and inspected a KPISF unit on May Day (1 May; International Labor Day) 2013.

The Ministry of the People’s Security is a large security organization consisting of (ca.) 200,000 employees with diverse missions.  In DPRK vernacular, the MPS is “a dinosaur” indicating the immense size and resources of the organization.  The MPS is the DPRK’s major domestic law enforcement and public safety organization.  It enforces DPRK laws and statutes (i.e. misdemeanors and felonies), discharges a number of public safety functions (fire departments, traffic control, road and railway security), administers prisons and labor detention facilities and is responsible for various registration records (the census, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses).  MPS personnel provide security to DPRK Embassies and missions located abroad, to DPRK Cabinet members and other DPRK government officials and DPRK universities and research institutions.  They also support the missions of the Guard Command, which provides close protection for Kim Jong Un and others core DPRK elites.  The MPS and the KPISF also operate several engineering and construction brigades (which some sources claim construct the tunnels used in nuclear detonations) and own several farms and other production sites, including the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm and Factory and the 927 Chicken Farm.  The MPS and KPISF are subordinate to the National Defense Commission, but they report to Jang Song Taek in his capacity as NDC Vice Chairman and Director of the KWP Administration Department.

Ministers of the People's (Public) Security from 2000 through the present (Graphic by Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

Ministers of the People’s (Public) Security from 2000 through the present (Graphic by Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watch).

Like some other recent personnel changes at the upper tier of the DPRK’s** national security community, Choe Pu Il’s replacement of Ri Myong Su did not involve an aggressive purge of the incumbent official in favor of a Kim Jong Un loyalist.  Despite being removed from office, Gen. Ri appears to remain a member of the central leadership, albeit operating in a diminished capacity.  Like his two immediate predecessors, Choe has spent part of his career in command positions in the KPA’s conventional forces.  Both Choe Pu Il and Ri Myong Su have held the position of Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau [GSOB].  Choe was head of the operations bureau from 2012 to 2013 and Ri headed the bureau from approximately 1996 to 2007.  Like the Minister of People’s Security, the Chief of the General Staff Operations Bureau leads a diverse security organization with hundred of thousands of personnel, has direct access to the supreme leader and an intimate knowledge of the country’s various power organizations and their activities.  While not a head of the GSOB, Ri Myong Su’s predecessor, Gen. Ju Sang Song, had served as an inspector-general of the Chief KPA General Staff and was the commander of the IV Army Corps.  Since the health-related retirement of Paek Hak Rim in 2003, the MPS had only once been led by a civilian, Choe Ryong Su, who served as Minister for about a year until he was removed from office.  Since Choe’s 2004 dismissal, the DPRK leadership has seemingly earmarked the Minister’s position for the KPA.

**Rumors of purged security officials are greatly exaggerated in the Pyongyang watching community.  Gen. U Tong Chuk stood aside as Minister of State Security in 2012 and vacated his political offices, but was never purged.  Readers can do the math on Gen. U’s status, factoring in that he spent much of his career as an overseas intelligence manager and officer.  VMar Kim Jong Gak was removed as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in November 2011, but has not lost his Vice Marshal’s rank and was assigned another position.  Hyon Yong Chol, who served as Chief of the KPA General Staff from July 2012 to May 2013, was reduced in rank and assigned command of V Army Corps.  And then there’s Kim Kyok Sik, removed from office as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in May 2013 after six months in officer.  Gen. Kim, identified as the target of the biggest purge this side of ’56, ended up appointed Chief of the General Staff.

***For fans of James Church’s Inspector O series, “the Minister” in The Corpse in the Koryo and Bamboo and Blood was Paek Hak Rim and “the Minister” in Hidden Moon was Choe Ryong Su***

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik Lands at KPA General Staff

23 May
Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (annotated in a yellow box) was part of a group that saw off VMar Choe Ryong Hae (1) and a senior DPRK delegation on a trip to China at Pyongyang Airport on 22 May 2013.  Also seen in attendance is PRC Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai (2) (Photo: KCNA)

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (annotated in a yellow box) was part of a group that saw off VMar Choe Ryong Hae (1) and a senior DPRK delegation on a trip to China at Pyongyang Airport on 22 May 2013. Also seen in attendance is PRC Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai (2) (Photo: KCNA)

Two weeks after being removed from office as the DPRK’s defense minister, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik has been appointed Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff.  Gen. Kim had been appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, the country’s equivalent to defense minister, in November 2012 and held that position until early May 2013.  On 13 May, DPRK state media identified Gen. Jang Jong Nam  as Minister of the PAF.  Gen. Kim’s removal from office, after only seven months in the position, caused a feverish amount of speculation among Pyongyang watchers some of whom interpreted his removal from office as a “purge.”  Gen. Kim replaces Gen. Hyon Yong Chol, who was appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff in July 2013 after the removal of VMar Ri Yong Ho.  There is no word as to whether Gen. Hyon was dismissed with prejudice or if he had been assigned another position in the KPA.  One of Gen. Hyon’s last observed appearances was in late April 2013 when he attended Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visit to the Haedanghwa Health Complex in Pyongyang.

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik was identified as the new head of the KPA General Staff in a Korean Central Television report about VMar Choe Ryong Hae’s 22 May (Wednesday) departure from Pyongyang Airport to visit China as the “special envoy of Kim Jong Un.”  Gen. Kim previous served as Chief of the KPA General Staff from 2007 to 2009.  He is the second DPRK elite to be appointed to a senior position that he previously held; the other member of the central leadership to be reappointed to his old job was Pak Pong Ju, who was appointed DPRK Cabinet Premier on 1 April 2013, having served as DPRK Premier from 2003-2007.  2007 was the same year that Kim Jong Un became a viable candidate as the late leader Kim Jong Il’s hereditary successor.

Kim Kyok Sik’s replacing Hyon Yong Chol marks the third senior KPA personnel turnover in two weeks (with Jang Jong Nam replacing Kim at MPAF, and Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok replacing VMar Hyon Chol Hae as 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), and the eighth observed personnel change to the KPA’s high command since Kim Jong Un formally assumed the supreme leadership in January 2012.  Pyongyang watchers might be forgiven if they find themselves reaching for the Dramamine with the latest change at the top of the KPA.  Finding an easy rationale behind these personnel changes would be, to paraphrase one of our most astute Kumsusanologists, “shallow and misleading.”

Graphic illustrating personnel changes in the senior command of the Korean People's Army [KPA] from 2007 to 2013 (Photo: M. Madden/NK Leadership Watch)

Graphic illustrating personnel changes in the senior command of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] from 2007 to 2013 (Photo: M. Madden/NK Leadership Watch)

CMC Meetings Shown in DPRK Documentary on Kim Jong Un’s Military Activities

18 Mar

On 5 March DPRK state media released a documentary film which compiled film footage of Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) inspecting Korean People’s Army [KPA] units, observing training exercises and visiting construction projects utilizing KPA personnel from his accession in January 2012 to live fire exercises in 2013.  Loosely translated as Unleashing a New Heyday of the Formidable Forces of Mt. Paektu, the 80 minute film consists mainly of footage that has previously appeared in short documentaries about KJU’s activities.  Aside from a few new, brief scenes of KJU talking with note taking senior officials, the films includes footage of the expanded meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Military Commission [CMC] meeting held late in the afternoon on 3 February 2013.  The meeting was a key event preceding the DPRK’s third nuclear test on 12 February 2013.  The CMC meeting ended with Kim Jong Un, assisted by Chief of the KPA General Staff Hyon Yong Chol, giving meeting participants handguns in presentation boxes.  

External establishing shot showing the KWP flag over the KWP #1 Office Building in Pyongyang (L);  The 3 February 2013 expanded CMC meeting (C); Kim Jong Un chairing the meeting (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

External establishing shot showing the KWP flag over the KWP #1 Office Building in Pyongyang (L); The 3 February 2013 expanded CMC meeting (C); Kim Jong Un chairing the meeting (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Jong Un chairing the 3 February 2013 expanded CMC meeting (top) and 3rd generation KPA commanders and officials (middle and bottom) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Jong Un chairing the 3 February 2013 expanded CMC meeting (top) and 3rd generation KPA commanders and officials (middle and bottom) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC Members attended the 3 February 2013 meeting (L-R) Jang Song Taek; Pak To Chun; VMar Kim Yong Chun; Gen. Kim Won Hong; and Gen. Ri Myong Su (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC Members attended the 3 February 2013 meeting (L-R) Jang Song Taek; Pak To Chun; VMar Kim Yong Chun; Gen. Kim Won Hong; and Gen. Ri Myong Su (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC Members and senior officials attending the 3 February 2013 meeting.  In this image are VMar Kim Jong Gak (front row, R), Ju Kyu Chang (front row, 2nd R), Gen. Yun Jong Rin (front row, 3rd R) and Gen. Pak Jae Gyong (2nd row, R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC Members and senior officials attending the 3 February 2013 meeting. In this image are VMar Kim Jong Gak (front row, R), Ju Kyu Chang (front row, 2nd R), Gen. Yun Jong Rin (front row, 3rd R) and Gen. Pak Jae Gyong (2nd row, R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members applaud during the meeting.  Among those in the front row in this image are Jang Song Taek (L), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (2nd L), Pak To Chun (3rd L) and VMar Kim Yong Chun (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members applaud during the meeting. Among those in the front row in this image are Jang Song Taek (L), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (2nd L), Pak To Chun (3rd L) and VMar Kim Yong Chun (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation boxes (L) containing an autographed message from Kim Jong Un (C) of handguns (R) presented to meeting participants (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation boxes (L) containing an autographed message from Kim Jong Un (C) of handguns (R) presented to meeting participants (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation ceremony of handguns at the end of the 3 February 2013 expanded CMC meetings.  Among those presented with these guns were: VMar Choe Ryong Hae (1.), Jang Song Taek (2.), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (3.), Pak To Chun (4.), VMar Kim Yong Chun (5.), VMar Hyon Chol Hae (6.), Gen. Kim Won Hong (7.) and Gen. Kim Yong Chol (8.) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation ceremony of handguns at the end of the 3 February 2013 expanded CMC meetings. Among those presented with these guns were: VMar Choe Ryong Hae (1.), Jang Song Taek (2.), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (3.), Pak To Chun (4.), VMar Kim Yong Chun (5.), VMar Hyon Chol Hae (6.), Gen. Kim Won Hong (7.) and Gen. Kim Yong Chol (8.) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Over view of presentation ceremony at the end of the expanded CMC meeting (L) Gen. Hyon Yong Chol handing a presentation box to Kim Jong Un (C) and meeting participants applauding at the conclusion of the meeting (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Over view of presentation ceremony at the end of the expanded CMC meeting (L) Gen. Hyon Yong Chol handing a presentation box to Kim Jong Un (C) and meeting participants applauding at the conclusion of the meeting (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

The film also included footage of another expanded meeting of the Party Central Military Commission, held between February and March 2012.  This would have been a key event preceding the 13 April 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket, which crashed shortly after it was launched.  Unlike the February 2013 CMC meeting, KWP civilian officials are attired in KPA dress uniforms.  Based on the protocol from the February ’13 meeting, it is likely then-Chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Ri Yong Ho, participated in the handgun presentation ceremony at the meeting’s conclusion, however VMar Ri is not shown in this film.

Overview of expanded CMC meeting held in February or March 2012 (L), Kim Jong Un chairing the meeting (C) and a view of CMC members and meeting participants (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Overview of expanded CMC meeting held in February or March 2012 (L), Kim Jong Un chairing the meeting (C) and a view of CMC members and meeting participants (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members attending the 2012 meeting.  In the front row are Ju Kyu Chang (L), Choe Ryong Hae (2nd L) Pak To Chun (3rd L) and Kim Jong Gak (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members attending the 2012 meeting. In the front row are Ju Kyu Chang (L), Choe Ryong Hae (2nd L) Pak To Chun (3rd L) and Kim Jong Gak (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members standing at the 2012 meeting: Choe Ryong Hae (L), Pak To Chun (C) and Kim Jong Gak (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members standing at the 2012 meeting: Choe Ryong Hae (L), Pak To Chun (C) and Kim Jong Gak (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members stand during the meeting in 2012.  In the front row are: Gen. Kim Kyong Ok (L), Gen. Kim Won Hong (2nd L), Gen. Jong Myong Do (3rd L) and Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members stand during the meeting in 2012. In the front row are: Gen. Kim Kyong Ok (L), Gen. Kim Won Hong (2nd L), Gen. Jong Myong Do (3rd L) and Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members stand during the 2012 meeting.  In the front row in this image are VMar Kim Yong Chun (R), Jang Song Taek (2nd R), VMar Kim Jong Gak (3rd R), Pak To Chun (4th R), Choe Ryong Hae (5th R) and Ju Kyu Chang (6th R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members stand during the 2012 meeting. In the front row in this image are VMar Kim Yong Chun (R), Jang Song Taek (2nd R), VMar Kim Jong Gak (3rd R), Pak To Chun (4th R), Choe Ryong Hae (5th R) and Ju Kyu Chang (6th R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members and senior security officials stand during the 2012 meeting.  In this image in the front row are: Gen. Ri Myong Su (L) Hyon Chol Hae (2nd L),  Choe Kyong Song (3rd L), and Gen. Yun Jong Rin (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

CMC members and senior security officials stand during the 2012 meeting. In this image in the front row are: Gen. Ri Myong Su (L) Hyon Chol Hae (2nd L), Choe Kyong Song (3rd L), and Gen. Yun Jong Rin (4th L) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Overview of an expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting held in February or March 2012 with images of Kim Jong Un speaking, and 3rd generation KPA commanders and security officials (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Overview of an expanded Party Central Military Commission meeting held in February or March 2012 with images of Kim Jong Un speaking, and 3rd generation KPA commanders and security officials (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation box of a handgun (L) presented to participants at the 2012 CMC meeting.  The grip contains KJU's autograph (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation box of a handgun (L) presented to participants at the 2012 CMC meeting. The grip contains KJU’s autograph (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation ceremony of handguns at the end of an expanded CMC meeting held in early 2012.  Among those presented with handguns are: VMar Kim Yong Chun (1.), Jang Song Taek (2.), VMar Kim Jong Gak (3.), Choe Ryong Hae (4.), Ju Kyu Chang (5.), Kim Kyong Ok (6.), Gen. Kim Won Hong (7.) and Gen. Jong Myong Do (8.) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presentation ceremony of handguns at the end of an expanded CMC meeting held in early 2012. Among those presented with handguns are: VMar Kim Yong Chun (1.), Jang Song Taek (2.), VMar Kim Jong Gak (3.), Choe Ryong Hae (4.), Ju Kyu Chang (5.), Kim Kyong Ok (6.), Gen. Kim Won Hong (7.) and Gen. Jong Myong Do (8.) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presented with handguns at the conclusion of the expanded CMC meeting in early 2012 were: Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (1.), Gen. Choe Pu Il (2.), Gen. Yun Jong Rin (3.), Gen. Ri Myong Su (4.), Col. Gen. Jo Kyong Chol (5.), Gen. Pak Jae Gyong (6.), Lt. Gen. Pak Jong Chon (7.) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Presented with handguns at the conclusion of the expanded CMC meeting in early 2012 were: Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (1.), Gen. Choe Pu Il (2.), Gen. Yun Jong Rin (3.), Gen. Ri Myong Su (4.), Col. Gen. Jo Kyong Chol (5.), Gen. Pak Jae Gyong (6.), Lt. Gen. Pak Jong Chon (7.) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Jong Un (L) concludes an expanded meeting of the Party Central Military Commission (R) held in early 2012 (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Jong Un (L) concludes an expanded meeting of the Party Central Military Commission (R) held in early 2012 (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Rumors of Dismissed People’s Security Minister Floated in ROK Media

28 Feb
Gen. Ri Myong Su (L), last known Minister of People's Security and Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il (R) whom South Korean sources claim  replaced Ri as head of People's Security (Photos: Xinhua file photo and KCTV screengrab)

Gen. Ri Myong Su (L), last known Minister of People’s Security and Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il (R) whom South Korean sources claim replaced Ri as head of People’s Security (Photos: Xinhua file photo and KCTV screengrab)

South Korean [ROK] media, citing an interview with an unnamed ROK government official, are circulating rumors that DPRK Minister of People’s Security, Gen. Ri Myong Su (Ri Myo’ng-su) has been removed from office and replaced by Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il, currently serving as Vice Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff.  Gen. Ri was appointed Minister in April 2011 and has held the office for nearly two years. In a 26 February report  Yonhap News Agency quoted the unnamed official who said, “To my knowledge, North Korea recently appointed Choi Bu-il, deputy chief of staff at the North’s military, to the minister of people’s security” and also reported that “the source declined to give further details, including exactly when Cho was named, but the apparent replacement is believed to be linked to a ‘part of loyalty test by Kim Jong-un.'”

JoongAng Ilbo published a similar story on 27 February and reported that “Choe Pu-il, former vice chief of the general staff of the North Korean army, has been appointed to the minister of people’s security, a position similar to a national police commissioner in the South, a high-ranking South Korean official told reporters yesterday at a private meeting.” JoongAng Ilbo also reports that Gen. Ri Myong Su “hasn’t appeared in public since September 2012.”  Yonhap also reported that Gen. Ri “”has not been seen in public for months, raising speculation that he might have been purged.”

Either ROK media or their mystery man in the ROK government, are simply wrong about Gen. Ri’s public appearances.  Ri Myong Su’s last reported public appearance was on 4 January 2013 when he attended a meeting of People’s Security and Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF] personnel “to carry out the important tasks” itemized in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day Address.  Prior to that Gen. Ri visited Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun with KJU on New Year’s Day, attended a banquet given for personnel involved in the 12 December 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket, visited Ku’msusan on 24 December 2012, attended an unveiling ceremony of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il statues in Hamhu’ng on 20 December 2012 , attended the first central party banquet for the U’nha-3 launch personnel on 21 December 2012 and attended a national memorial service commemorating one year since Kim Jong Il’s demise.  Gen. Ri also attended a national meeting of people’s security officers and a KJU commemorative photo session in late November 2012 and attended Forestry Workers’ national meeting on or around 7 November 2012.  Gen. Ri’s public appearances have been relatively spotty, as Luke Herman wrote in NK News about in October 2012, but he has “appeared in public” well after September 2012 despite current media reporting.

Gen Ri Myong Su (2nd R) attend a forestry workers' meeting on 7 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA/KCTV still)

Gen Ri Myong Su (2nd R) attend a forestry workers’ meeting on 7 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA/KCTV still)

This does not mean Ri Myong Su’s position could not be in jeopardy.  There have been the aforementioned gaps between his public appearances, which could be ascribed either to his political standing or to the Minister having to directly supervise People’s Security’s various missions directly from headquarters.  A lot of the ceremonial aspects of the Minister’s position have been undertaken by the head of the People’s Security/KPSIF Political Bureau, Col. Gen. Ri Pyong Sam, who presided over a ceremony at which the MPS University was renamed after KJI and two awards ceremonies for KPISF personnel killed on duty.  There have also been rumors in Pyongyang implicating members of Ri Myong Su’s family in malfeasance in their foreign trading corporations.  If Ri was removed from office, it would indicate that Kim Jong Un continues to consolidate his power by making his own personnel appointments, in lieu of keeping Kim Jong Il’s old retainers.  It should also be noted hat Gen. Ri has also held senior positions during the DPRK’s three nuclear test.  In 2006 Ri was serving as Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau.  In 2009, Ri was director of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] Administration Department.  In 2012, Ri was Minister of People’s Security, which, according to some researchers. controls some of the units responsible for major construction and engineering projects at the P’unggye-ri Nuclear Test Site.

South Korean official and media sources have also previously provided conflicting information about Ri’s alleged replacement, Choe Pu Il.  Choe has served as Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff since 2009.  However some ROK sources have identified Choe also concurrently serving as Chief of the KPA General Staff Operation Bureau, and other ROK sources have claimed that Choe commanding the IX Army Corps or serving as regional commander of KPA forces in what be termed it Northeast Military District.  This does not preclude Choe from being appointed to People’s Security, and his career history reveals ample criteria for his potential appointment.  And yet, previous information from ROK sources about Choe’s position within the DPRK ‘s national security community has been inconsistent and highly speculative.

Pyongyang watchers also may recall that back in November 2012, VMar Kim Jong Gak was quietly removed from serving as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces and replaced by Gen. Kim Kyok Sik.  This led country watchers to speculate as to whether VMar Kim was part of an ongoing purge, or if he was dismissed because of allegations that one of his sons had attempted to defect via China.  Although Gen. Kim Kyok Sik’s appointment as the country’s defense minister was later publicized, it hardly affected Kim Jong Gak’s political standing and he has made a number of public appearances, including at so-called #1 Events with Kim Jong Un.

Previous Ministers of People's Security Paek Hak Rim (L) and Ju Sang Song (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrab and KCNA)

Previous Minister of People’s Security Paek Hak Rim (L) and Ju Sang Son (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrab and KCNA)

There have been numerous occasions in the past in which a senior official is seen at an event close to The Center, or continues to make public appearances, even though they’ve already been marked for dismissal.  Often these have involved the more opaque maneuverings within the Party Central Committee and DPRK Government.  However the Ministry of People’s Security, and particularly the individual serving as Minister, operates (in very relative terms) transparently.  Gen. Ri Myong Su’s three predecessors as Minister were all publicly removed from office and their replacement publicly announced.  In July 2003 the Minister of People’s Security Paek Hak Rim was removed (due both to political reasons and old age) from office by an order of the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium.**  His replacement, Choe Ryong Su, was immediately announced.  Choe Ryong Su’s tenure was short-lived.  Barely a year after his appointment Choe was replaced by Gen. Ju Sang Song, then-commander of the IV Army Corps.  Gen. Ju had a lengthy tenure, serving as Minister for nearly seven years.  In March 2011 Gen. Ju was publicly removed from office by an order of the NDC “due to his illness.”  On 7 April 2011, Ju was replaced by Gen. Ri Myong Su through an order of the NDC (to which People’s Security is subordinate) and ratified by the 4th session of the 12th SPA held the same day.

**Until 2009 the Ministry of People’s Security was part of the DPRK Cabinet, and the Minister appointed by the SPA.  After 2009, the MPS was directly subordinate to the National Defense Commission.  Thus, Paek Hak Rim and Choe Ryong Su were removed from office by the SPA Presidium (standing committee).  In 2011 Gen. Ju Sang Song was removed as Minister by the National Defense Commission, and Gen. Ri Myong Su appointed to replace him, however the dismissal and appointment were ratified at the 4th session of the 12th SPA.

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