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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.

DPRK Conducts Third Nuclear Test

12 Feb
A United States Geological Survey poster showing the 12 February 2013 seismic event near the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in North Hamgyo'ng Province (Photo: USGS)

A United States Geological Survey poster showing the 12 February 2013 seismic event near the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in North Hamgyo’ng Province (Photo: USGS)

The DPRK conducted its third nuclear test in the late morning of 12 February (Tuesday).  The first indication of the third experimental detonation was a seismic event  with its epicenter on the premises of the DPRK’s nuclear test facility near P’unggye-ri, Kilchu County, North Hamgyo’ng Province.  The seismic event was later identified in South Korea media reporting as a “man-made earthquake” and had an estimate magnitude between 4.7 and. 5.2.  According to a preliminary analysis by the South Korean [ROK] government the nuclear test of between six (6) and seven (7) kilotons.  According to a public health official in Primorsky Krai, the Russian administrative district that borders the DPRK, there were no increased raditation levels and “everything is normal and (the levels) correspond to the natural background.”  It remains to be seen whether the DPRK tested a plutonium or uranium device.

Hours after media reports on the seismic event in North Hamgyo’ng Province, DPRK state media released a report in which it said “the scientific field for national defense of the DPRK succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday.”  According to KCNA’s report on the nuclear test:

The scientific field for national defence of the DPRK succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday.

The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.

The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power. It was confirmed that the test did not give any adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment.

The specific features of the function and explosive power of the A-bomb and all other measurements fully tallied with the values of the design, physically demonstrating the good performance of the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence that has become diversified.

The nuclear test will greatly encourage the army and people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation with the same spirit and mettle as displayed in conquering space, and offer an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region.

DPRK state media also released a statement from the country’s Foreign Ministry which described the test as “a resolute step for self-defense taken by it to cope with the U.S. hostile act against it” and said that the “main objective of the current nuclear test is to express the surging resentment of the army and people of the DPRK at the U.S. brigandish hostile act and demonstrate the will and capability of Songun Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the last”:

The DPRK’s third nuclear test is a resolute step for self-defence taken by it to cope with the U.S. hostile act against it.

Its successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 in December last year was a peaceful one from A to Z which was conducted according to its plan for scientific and technological development for economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living.

The world including hostile countries recognized its application satellite’s entry into orbit and greatly admired its development of space technology.

The U.S., however, again prodded the UN Security Council into cooking up a new “resolution on sanctions” against the DPRK, terming its satellite launch a violation of the UNSC’s “resolution”.

Encroaching upon the right to satellite launch is an unpardonable grave hostile act as it is an infringement on the DPRK’s sovereignty.

By origin, the DPRK had neither need nor plan to conduct a nuclear test.

The DPRK’s nuclear deterrence has already acquired the trustworthy capability strong enough to make a precision strike at bases for aggression and blow them up at a single blow no matter where they are on the earth.

It was the DPRK’s goal to focus efforts on economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living by dint of nuclear deterrence for self-defence provided by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il all their lives.

The DPRK exercised its maximum self-restraint when the U.S. fabricated the “presidential statement” over its satellite launch for peaceful purposes by abusing the UNSC in April last year.

But the DPRK’s patience reached its limit as the U.S. intensified such hostile act as implementing before anyone else the UNSC’s “resolution on sanctions”, far from apologizing for its renewed wanton violation of the DPRK’s right to satellite launch.

The main objective of the current nuclear test is to express the surging resentment of the army and people of the DPRK at the U.S. brigandish hostile act and demonstrate the will and capability of Songun Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the last.

The DPRK’s nuclear test is a just step for self-defence not contradictory to any international law.

The U.S. has long put the DPRK on the list of preemptive nuclear strike.

It is quite natural just measure for self-defence to react to the U.S. ever-increasing nuclear threat with nuclear deterrence.

The DPRK withdrew from the NPT after going through legitimate procedures and chose the way of having access to nuclear deterrence for self-defence to protect the supreme interests of the country.

There have been on the earth more than 2 000 nuclear tests and at least 9 000 satellite launches in the UN history spanning over 60 years but there has never been a UNSC resolution on banning any nuclear test or satellite launch.

It is the U.S. that has conducted more nuclear tests and launched more satellites than any others. It, however, cooked up the UNSC’s “resolution” banning only the DPRK’s nuclear test and satellite launch. This is the breach of international law and the height of double standards.

Had the UNSC been impartial even a bit, it would not have taken issue with a sovereign state’s exercise of the right to self-defence and its scientific and technological activities for peaceful purposes but with the U.S. policy for preemptive nuclear strike, a threat to global peace and security, to begin with.

The current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint.

If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession.

The inspection of ships and maritime blockade touted by the hostile forces will be regarded as war actions and will invite the DPRK’s merciless retaliatory strikes at their strongholds.

The U.S., though belatedly, should choose between the two options: To respect the DPRK’s right to satellite launch and open a phase of detente and stability or to keep to its wrong road leading to the explosive situation by persistently pursuing its hostile policy toward the DPRK.

In case the U.S. chooses the road of conflict finally, the world will clearly see the army and people of the DPRK defend its dignity and sovereignty to the end through a do-or-die battle between justice and injustice, greet a great revolutionary event for national reunification and win a final victory.

The KCNA report and DPRK Foreign Ministry Statement were echoed in remarks made by the 1st Secretary of the DPRK Mission to the UN Geneva, Jon Yong Ryong said “The US and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate the DPRK (North Korea) would accept the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it.  The DPRK will never be bound to any resolutions.  Jon also said the nuclear test will “greatly encourage the army and the people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation… and offers an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the region.”  Jon also said “”the prospect for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula has become gloomier due to the US hostile policies to the DPRK that have become ever more pronounced” and that if the “EU truly wants peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, it should urge the US first to terminate its hostile policy towards the DPRK on an impartial basis.”

In Beijing the PRC Foreign Ministry released a statement which said the Chinese government was “strongly dissatisfied with” and “firmly opposed to” the DPRK’s third nuclear test.  The statement also urged “the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization and refrain from any move that may further worsen the situation. To safeguard peace and stability on the Peninsula and in Northeast Asia serves the common interests of all parties.”  The PRC Foreign Ministry also announced that it summoned DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong to “lodge a solemn representation.”

The Japanese Government convened an emergency meeting and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the test “is a grave threat to our nation’s safety and cannot be tolerated as it will significantly damage international society’s peace and safety.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which “we insist that North Korea should stop illegal actions, strictly fulfil all requirements of the UN Security Council, fully abandon missile and nuclear programs, return to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the IAEA comprehensive guarantees” and “calls on all interested parties to show restraint and plans together with other six-party negotiators not to ease up in efforts towards normalization of the situation on the peninsula through political and diplomatic means.”  The statement also said, “Only so and no other way North Korea will be able to pull out from effective international isolation, which will open the door to international cooperation in different directions without exclusion of peaceful atom and space.  We are confident that this path meets interests, first of all, of North Korea itself.”

On 6 February Russian Ambassador to the DPRK Alexandr Timonin told Interfax, “As before, our country advocates the continuation of the search for political and diplomatic ways to stabilize the situation in the Northeast Asia and will do its best to facilitate the creation of favourable conditions for resuming the six-party talks on the nuclear problem in the Korean peninsula.  In this respect, it is extremely important that all interested parties do not commit actions capable to aggravate the situation in the Korean peninsula and lead to a new arms race.”

The United Nations Security Council [UNSC], of which South Korea holds the monthly rotating presidency, held an emergency meeting on 12 February which “strongly condemned” the third test.  According to the UNSC’s statement:

The members of the Security Council held urgent consultations to address the serious situation arising from the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolution 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2087 (2013), and therefore there continues to exist a clear threat to international peace and security.

The members of the Security Council recalled that in January, they unanimously adopted resolution 2087 (2013), which expressed the Council’s determination to take “significant action” in the event of a further Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear test.

In line with this commitment and the gravity of this violation, the members of the Security Council will begin work immediately on appropriate measures in a Security Council resolution.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “strongly” condemned the 12 February nuclear test and described it as ” clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions” and  said that Ban is “gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation”:

The Secretary-General condemns the underground nuclear weapon test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) today. It is a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

It is deplorable that Pyongyang defied the strong and unequivocal call from the international community to refrain from any further provocative measures. The Secretary-General had repeatedly called on the new leadership in Pyongyang to address international concerns and start building confidence with neighbouring countries and the international community.

The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation. He once again urges the DPRK to reverse course and work towards de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The Secretary-General is confident that the Security Council will remain united and take appropriate action. In the meantime, the Secretary-General remains in close contact with all concerned parties and stands ready to assist their efforts.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, “expressed deep regret” about the nuclear test and “strongly urged the DPRK to fully implement all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and all relevant IAEA Board of Governors resolutions.”   According to a brief statement Amano said, “I understand that the DPRK announced it had carried out a third test of a nuclear weapon, despite calls from the international community not to do so. This is deeply regrettable and is in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.  The IAEA remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue by resuming its nuclear verification activities in the country as soon as the political agreement is reached among countries concerned.”

Institutions and power organizations involved in the 12 February 2013 (abridged edition)

The 12 February 2013 nuclear test was the culmination of activity within departments, offices, sections and units of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP], the DPRK Government and the Korean People’s Army [KPA].  The third nuclear test was authorized through government channels by the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] and through party channels during an expanded meeting of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC] on 3 February 2013.  Kim Jong Un’s last reported public appearance was at the expanded CMC meeting.  Like the 12 December 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket, the experimental detonation was a combined effort of scientists and technicians (who typically work for party and government agencies) and elements of the KPA.  Personnel involved in each phase of the nuclear test would interface with Kim Jong Un and other core leadership through the KWP Machine Building Industry Department’s deputy (vice) director Hong Sung Mu and the KWP Organization Guidance Department [OGD].  When Kim Jong Il was alive, the nuclear weapons program was commanded directly by KJI through a former Kim Il Sung University professor So Sang Kuk, who held the position of OGD deputy (vice) director and worked in KJI’s office.

Information about the DPRK’s strategic weapons program in general, and its testing of nuclear weapons in particular, is speculative and contradictory.  However, there are some key organizations that would have been involved in the actual nuclear test.  The nuclear test was conducted by elements of the KPA General Staff’s Nuclear-Chemical, Ordnance and Communications Bureaus working in cooperation with personnel from the 5th Bureau of the Second Economy Commission [SEC], the 2nd National Academy of Sciences [SANS] and the Nuclear Bureau.  According to some researchers, the Nuclear Bureau is part of the KWP Machine-Building Industry Department (formerly known as the KWP Munitions Industry Department), however other sources says that the Nuclear Bureau was subordinated directly to the NDC, after it was bureaucratically migrated from the KWP along with SANS.  SANS personnel would have been involved in the nuclear physics, engineering and other technical aspects of the test, while the 5th Bureau of the SEC would have been involved in production of the nuclear device (as well as preliminary high explosive testing).  The construction of the detonation area and tunnels may have been conducted by a Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] engineering unit or a specialized construction unit of the KPA.  Support roles would have been played by the KPA General Logistics Department (subordinate to the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces [MPAF]) and for mission security by elements of the Military Security Command [MSC] and the Ministry of State Security’s Defense Industry Security Bureau, possibly augmented by personnel of the Guard Command.

Leadership Activities Prior to 12 February 2013 nuclear test

On 12 February, DPRK state media reported that a meeting of the KWP Political Bureau convened on 11 February (Monday).  Kim Jong Un was not reported to have attended.  The Political Bureau meeting passed a lengthy decision to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of active hostilities of the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War and the 65th anniversary of the DPRK’s foundation.  However, the Political Bureau meeting was most likely the forum at which the central leadership was formally notified of an impending third nuclear test.

Kim Jong Un’s last public appearance was reported on 3 February 2012 and was his chairing and attending the expanded CMC meeting.  Prior to the CMC meeting, KJU attended a commemorative photo-op with participants of the 4th Meeting of Party Cell Secretaries.  Notable members of his entourage at the photo-op were VMar Kim Yong Chun and Gen. O Kuk Ryol, two of the KPA’s key senior officials tied to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program.  Interestingly, VMar Kim and Gen. O were part of a personnel shake-up of the KPA’s high command in February 2009, three months prior to the May 2009 nuclear test.  At that time, Gen. O was appointed Vice Chairman of the NDC and VMar Kim was appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.  VMar Kim was later replaced as minister and appointed director of the KWP Civil Defense Department, which has a major public safety function during a nuclear test.  Also in February 2009, Kim Kyok Sik was replaced as Chief of the KPA General Staff by Ri Yong Ho.  Ri was later famously dismissed in July 2012, but Kim Kyok Sik resurfaced in a senior position when he was appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in November 2012, approximately three months ahead of the 12 February 2013 nuclear test.

Late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il tours revolutionary historical sites in Yo'nsa County, North Hamgyo'ng Province in his last reported public appearance before the DPRK conducted its second nuclear weapons test on 25 May 2009.

Late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il tours revolutionary historical sites in Yo’nsa County, North Hamgyo’ng Province in his last reported public appearance before the DPRK conducted its second nuclear weapons test on 25 May 2009. Yo’nsa County is only 65 km (40 miles) from the Punggye-ri nuclear testing area (Photos: KCNA)

KJU’s lack of public activity contrasts with Kim Jong Il’s (his father) public appearances prior to the second nuclear test on 25 May 2009.  On 23 May 2009, DPRK state media reported that the late KJI inspected revolutionary historical sites in Yo’nsa County, North Hamgyo’ng Province, located 65 km  (40 miles) from the P’unggye-ri test site.  On the day of the test, KJI was reported to have attended a concert given by the Persimmon Tree (kamnamu) Company of the KPA.  State media did not disclose where the concert took place, making it likely that KJI watched the concert in Pyongyang or at the Persimmon Tree Company’s headquarters in Kangwo’n Province.

Political Bureau Meeting

12 Feb
The KWP CC Political Bureau, as of January 2013 (Photo: NK Leadership Watch graphic)

The KWP CC Political Bureau, as of January 2013 (Photo: NK Leadership Watch graphic)

DPRK state media reported on 12 February (Tuesday) that the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau met on 11 February (Monday).  The meeting, attended by “members of the Presidium, members and alternate members,” adopted the decision “On marking the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War as grand festivals of victors.”  The Political Bureau’s position “stressed the need to continue launching satellites of Kwangmyo’ngso’ng series and powerful long-range rockets.”  According to KCNA the Political Bureau’s decision was:

The decision emphasized the need to further deepen and accomplish the sacred cause of holding in high esteem the great Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il as eternal leaders of the WPK and the revolution.

The decision called for splendidly and significantly organizing political events marking the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War and the 65th anniversary of the DPRK.

According to it, various political events will be held with splendor to mark the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War. They will include a parade of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), mass demonstration of Pyongyang citizens, grand mass gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang” and army-people joint meeting with war veterans.

The decision stressed the need to successfully rebuild the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and spruce up the revolutionary battle sites, revolutionary sites and revolutionary museums including the revolutionary museum at Kim Il Sung University, the Museum of the Fatherland Liberation War and the Jonsung Revolutionary Museum.

It called for newly building a martyrs cemetery of the KPA in Pyongyang and sprucing up KPA martyrs cemeteries and monuments to the fallen fighters of the KPA in various parts of the country.

It underlined the need to resolutely foil all the hostile forces’ moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK by achieving proud victory in building an economic power and improving the people’s living standard.

It also underscored the need for all fields and units to do a lot of good works for the prosperity of the country and its people’s happiness on the occasion of the 65th birthday of the Republic.

It called for staging an all-out action of high intensity for reliably protecting the security and sovereignty of the country in view of the prevailing grave situation and marking the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War with fresh achievements in bolstering up capability for self-defence.

It stressed the need to continue launching satellites of Kwangmyongsong series and powerful long-range rockets.

It called on the KPA to keep itself fully ready for combat and put maximum spurs to rounding off its combat preparedness in order to bolster up one-beats-a hundred combat capability. It stressed that once an order is issued, the KPA should blow up the stronghold of aggression at a strike and wipe out the brigandish U.S. imperialists and south Korean puppet army to the last man and thus accomplish the historic cause of national reunification.

The decision called for sincerely helping the army and significantly conducting the work for putting forward and preferentially treating the war veterans and wartime merited persons as a social movement on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the war victory.

It underscored the need to give further spurs to building a highly civilized socialist nation.

It referred to the tasks for completing the preparations for the universal 12-year compulsory education within this year, establishing a medical information service network and telemedicine system, building a children’s hospital, a dental hospital and a recovery center and winding up the first phase project for updating the Hungnam Pharmaceutical Factory.

It also underscored the need to build a modern combined center for sports trainings and different kinds of mass sporting facilities and raise hot wind of sports throughout the country.

It called for face-lifting the central part of Pyongyang and building more modern cultural facilities including pleasure grounds and Munsu Wading Pool.

The decision stressed the need to arouse all compatriots to the struggle for resolutely foiling the anti-DPRK moves and “sanctions” racket of the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet group of traitors and thoroughly implementing the June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration so as to open up a new phase for national reunification.

It called for conducting external activities to grandly celebrate the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War as a common event for the anti-imperialist independent forces and the world progressive people.

The Political Bureau along with other organizations of the KWP Central Committee (Graphic: Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watcher (NKLW))

The Political Bureau along with other organizations of the
KWP Central Committee (Graphic: Michael Madden/NK Leadership Watcher (NKLW))

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