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Mothers’ Meeting Held

16 Nov

Ro Song Sil (L), Chair of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, addresses the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

DPRK state media reported on 15 November (Thursday) that the Fourth National Meeting of Mothers was held at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang.  Attending the meeting were Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department [bureau] VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and SPA Chairman Choe Tae Bok, KWP Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation [publicity and information] Department Kim Ki Nam, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier Kim Yong Jin, Director of the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department Ri Yong Su, Chair of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union [Democratic Women's Union of Korea]  Ro Song Sil, Jong Hui Ja of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union of Japan.  Also in attendance were Chon Jae Ryong, leading a delegation of Korean women residing in the PRC, Jong Il Sim, leading a delegation of Korean women residing in the Russian Federation, “overseas women,” along with “officials of working people’s organizations, officials concerned, anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters, mothers who have devoted themselves to the upbringing of children and the drive for the prosperity of the country, wives of servicepersons, labor innovators, officials and other exemplary women.”

A view of the platform (rostrum) at the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

A view of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at the 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam delivers a congratulatory address on behalf of the party at the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA screengrab)

After a moment of silence for Kim Jong Il, Kim Ki Nam delivered a speech on behalf of the KWP.  Kim said that “Female Ch’o’llima rider depicted on the Statue of Ch’o’llima, a symbol of heroic Korea, which has shed its rays down through generations, features all mothers of the DPRK who displayed indomitable faith and heroic spirit in all fields in response to the call of the Party and the country” and thatthe mothers, who could hardly be freed from the burden of household chores for centuries, emerged powerful creators of the times and history. This history of landmark turn is associated with the lifetime indefatigable efforts of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il who led them every step of their way, attaching greater importance to their wisdom and strength than anybody else.”   According to KCNA ” the meeting discussed the tasks before the mothers and women to creditably discharge their mission for the prosperity of the country and harmony and happiness of society and families and the ways to do so.”

SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (front row, C) attends the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA screengrab)

Ri Song Sil delivered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union.  Ro said that, “under the military-first (so’ngun) leadership of the Party they have made a great contribution to the upbringing of children and the building of a thriving nation through their efforts to fulfill their responsibility and mission for society and families” and “Korean women in Japan and other overseas Korean women including mothers are giving stead continuity to Kim Il Sung’s nation, showing great sincerity for the prosperity of the socialist homeland.”  According to KCNA Ro “called upon all mothers and women to single-mindedly remain loyal to the idea and leadership of the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un and thus discharge their sacred responsibility and mission for the times and the revolution.”

Members of the Korean Children’s Union recite a poem at the end of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

Ro’s remarks were followed by additional speeches.  After the speaking program KCNA reported that “a congratulatory group of the Korean Children’s Union entered the venue of the meeting and recited a congratulatory poem ‘Congratulations on the mothers’ meeting.'”

Flowers are presented to participants of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

On 16 November (Friday) the DPRK will celebrate its first Mothers’ Day.  16 November 2012 is the 51st anniversary of the First National Meeting of Mothers held on 16 November 1961.  During the first meeting of mothers Kim Il Sung’s essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children” was released.  1961 holds some significance in the annals of the Kim Family.  In April 1961, the Ch’o’llima statue was unveiled in Pyongyang, one of the first large monuments of kwangpok politics.    For three weeks during April and May 1961, according to the official chronicles, Kim Jong Il fulfilled his university student manual labor requirement at the Pyongyang Textile Machine Factory.  Also in May 1961 the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (f.k.a. Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland) was established.  In July 1961 then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Kim Il Sung signed the DPRK-China treaty.  1961 was also the year that Kim Il Sung disseminated two agricultural policies, the development of fruit farming (at an April KWP Central Committee enlarged meeting in Pukch’o’ng County in South Hamgyo’ng Province) and the dissemination of a rural agricultural management policy in December.

Ko (L) with her son Kim Jong Un (R). This photograph illustrates the title of Kim Il Sung’ essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children.” (Photo: Party History Institute/Korea Documentary Film Studio via Mainichi Shimbun-Yonhap)

The Second National Meeting of Mothers occurred on  29 September 1998, days after Kim Jong Il formally assumed the DPRK government’s highest office of National Defense Commission Chairman.  A 27-year gap between mothers’ meetings might be explained as an early, oblique attempt to venerate Kim Jong Un’s mother Ko Yong Hui and establish, in the DPRK’s political culture, the legitimacy of the KJI-Ko family lineage.  The Third National Meeting of Mothers occurred on 24 November 2005, the year after Ko’s death.  The revival of the mothers’ meetings promoted–however subtly (to those “in the know”)–Ko’s importance.  But it was also a reference back to Kim Il Sung.  If Ko was linked to mothers’ meetings in 1998 and memorializing her formed the basis for the 2005 meeting, it aligned her son (at that time a toss-up between Jong Chol and Jong Un) directly with KIS’ treatise on the role of mothers in the DPRK from 1961 while also symbiotically associating the eventual hereditary successor with both KIS and KJI’s accomplishments from that year.

During this cursory flip-through of the Kims’ binders full of women, there are some other interesting similarities.  Like the second national meeting of mothers in 1998, the 4th national meeting occurred after Kim Jong Un formally assumed the supreme leadership position in the DPRK.  Throughout 2012, as part of KJU’s transition and power consolidations, a number of social and constituency groups (which reside under the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department) have gathered in Pyongyang.  The similarities in 1961 and 2012 are even more salient; as in 1961 the country has begun implementing (and retracting?) agricultural policies, a series of monuments to KIS and KJI have been erected in line with kwangpok politics, and the DPRK and China appear to be continuing amicable and substantial relations.  

Office #38 Repurposed?

18 Oct

Office #38 in the Korean Workers’ Party #1 Office Complex in central Pyongyang (Photo: Google image)

Kyodo News reported on 18 October (Thursday) that Office #38, a unit of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Finance and Accounting Department which managed some of Kim Jong Il’s cash holdings, was a eliminated as part of a consolidation of the country’s foreign currency-generating activities under the DPRK Cabinet.  Kyodo News reported that “was part of efforts by the leadership of Kim Jong Un to streamline entities that earn foreign currency by conducting economic activity such as trade and development of natural resources” and “the move was also intended to revitalize the economy and improve people’s living standard by increasing the role of the Cabinet.”  Ownership of companies previously part of Office #38 has migrated to the Moranbong Bureau, an entity of the DPRK Cabinet.  According to Kyodo “the management division of a Pyongyang restaurant conducting business in China and Southeast Asia, for example, has been transferred from Office 38, which oversaw transactions involving hotels, restaurants, foreign currency shops and trade to the newly established entity called ‘Moranbong Bureau’ that some say belongs to the Cabinet.”

Office #38 and the KWP Finance and Accounting Department in the Central District of Pyongyang (Photo: Google image)

Overview of the KWP #1 Office Complex in central Pyongyang (Photo: Google image)

Office #38 was formally established under the KWP Central Committee Secretariat’s Finance and Accounting Department in the mid-1980s by the department’s director Ro Myong Gun (No Myo’ng-kun).  It was part of the Third Floor, a group of central party sections (units) and offices which supplied Kim Jong Il with information, money and household items, and linked directly to his Personal Secretariat.  The names Third Floor and Office #38 (i.e., Room 38) derive from their original locations in the KWP Central Committee #1 Office Building (KJI’s headquarters from the 1970s until his death in 2011).

The KWP Central Committee #1 Office Building, which was Kim Jong Il’s headquarters from the mid-1970s until his death in 2011. Office #38 derives its name from the room number in this building where it was previously located (Photo: Google image)

With a staff of accountants, bookkeepers and security guards, it controlled a network of holding companies which owned and operated hotels and restaurants located in the DPRK and other Asian countries, as well as various stores and factories located in the country.  Between 20 and 30% of the revenue generated was turned over in cash (US Dollars, Euros) to Kim Jong Il, who would use it to pay his personal staff or dispense to members of his family, close aides and other senior DPRK officials (as gifts).  Office #38 was the not only central party unit responsible for managing KJI or Kim family financial assets or subsidizing his private life, but it was a key organization with regard to the technical and logistical administration of KJI’s money within the DPRK.  Office #38 personnel also escorted KJI’s fourth wife Ko Yong Hui (Ko Yo’ng-hu’i) and current supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) when they traveled abroad in the early 1990s, as well as Kim Jong Chol (Kim Cho’ng-ch’o’l) when he visited Singapore in February 2011.

Kim Tong Un (L) and Han Kwang Sang (R) (Photos: KCNA)

Daily management of Office #38 has divided between Kim Tong Un (Kim To’ng-u’n) and Han Kwang Sang.  Previously director of Office #39 (also rumored to have been under a consolidation and migration process), Kim Tong Un was subjected to travel sanctions by the European Union in 2009 and replaced by Jon Il Chun (Cho’n Il-ch’un) in early 2010.  Kim was not dismissed from office, but transferred to Office #38.  In February 2010 Han Kwang Sang was appointed a deputy director of the Finance and Accounting Department, and appeared with Kim Jong Il on a tour of the renovated Hyangsan Hotel.  It is likely Han was brought in to manage the Kim Jong Un portfolio in Office #38 and supervise the transfer of companies under Office #38 to the DPRK Cabinet.  Based on recent DPRK state media activity, neither Kim Tong Un nor Han Kwang Sang, has been dismissed from office.  Migrating most of Office #38’s responsibilities to other party and government entities conforms to a general trend in the organizations of the core leadership.  Since 2009, elements of Office #39, Office #35 (intelligence briefs) and KJI’s Personal Secretariat have been folded into the DPRK Government, the National Defense Commission [NDC] and the Guard Command during the transition from KJI to KJU.

The DPRK has recently started to heavily promote tourism in the country to China and the number of western tourists visiting the DPRK is as high as it has ever been.  Considering that a lot of businesses managed by Office #38 were part of the hospitality and restaurant sector in the DPRK, migrating control and management from Office #38 to the DPRK Cabinet mitigates the sanctimonious contention that traveling to the country “props up the regime.” It is likely these management changes were one factor in the closure of the Pyongyang Restaurant in Amsterdam in September.  It is also possible that these recent changes were one reason** Kim Kyong Hui (who owns several restaurants in and out of the country) did not appear in DPRK state media for a month.

**And also shopping for baby clothes.

 

Kim Jong Il Statue Dedicated at State Security

2 Oct

Members of the central leadership attend a ceremony dedicating a statue of Kim Jong Il at KPA Unit #10215 (also known as the Ministry of State Security). Among those in attendance include: VMar Hyon Chol Hae (4th L )VMar Kim Jong Gak (5th L), Gen. Kim Won Hong (6th L) VMar Choe Ryong Hae (7th L), Kim Yong Nam (8th L), Choe Yong Rim (7th R), Kim Ki Nam (6th R), Jang Song Taek (5th R) and Jo Yon Jun (4th R) (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

DPRK state media reported on 2 October (Tuesday) that a statue of Kim Jong Il was unveiled and dedicated at a ceremony on the campus of Korean People’s Army [KPA] Unit #10215.  The unit is the external name for the headquarters and command element of the Ministry of State Security [MSS]**.  Attending the dedication ceremony were Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, DPRK Cabinet Premier Choe Yong Nim, Director of the KPA General Political Department (bureau) VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Minister of State Security Gen. Kim Won Hong, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and Director of Propaganda and Agitation (publicity and information) Kim Ki Nam and  “other senior party, state and army officials, officials concerned, commanding officers and service personnel of the unit, military families, officials and employees of the unit who contributed to the erection of the statue.”

Floral baskets line the pedestal of a statue of late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il at KPA Unit #10215, dedicated on 2 October 2012 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

KCNA reported that the statue “depicts the great Generalissimo imposingly standing with one of his hands placed on his waist, his face beaming with a broad smile” and “seems to call on all the service personnel and people to dynamically advance towards a final victory, wishing the great Paektusan (Mt. Paektu) nation a rosy future of eternal prosperity.”  Participants at the dedication ceremony delivered a floral basket on behalf of DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n), a floral basket from the KWP Central Committee, the KWP Central Military Commission and the National Defense Commission and a floral basket from KPA Unit #10215.

After the floral baskets were placed at the statue’s pedestal, Minister of State Security Gen. Kim Won Hong delivered a speech to dedicate the statue.  According to KCNA Gen. Kim said in his remarks that “Generalissimo Kim Jong Il developed the WPK into an eternal party of Comrade Kim Il Sung and turned the socialist country into an invincible politico-ideological power and a world class military power.  Kim Jong Il’s  extraordinary leadership provided a sure guarantee for foiling all anti-DPRK plots of the U.S.-led imperialists and defending the single-minded unity of the revolutionary forces and Juche-oriented socialism as firm as an iron wall.”  Gen. Kim also “called on all service personnel and people to work hard to win a final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche, united close behind Marshal Kim Jong Un.”  KCNA reported “after being briefed on the statue, the participants looked round the statue.”

View of a ceremony dedicating a statue of Kim Jong Il at KPA Unit #10215 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

KPA Unit #10215 and the Ministry of State Security have played a significant role in Kim Jong Un’s succession and transition.  Various sources and media reports have claimed that MSS was one of the organizations where KJU cut his leadership teeth during 2007 to 2009.  The MSS did not use KPA Unit 10215 as its external use name until April 2009, after KJU’s hereditary succession was formally and internally communicated to second- and third-tier party, security and government officials.  On 9 May 2009, DPRK state media reported that Kim Jong Il conducted a field inspection of KPA Unit 10215’s command staff university, accompanied by leading MSS officials.  During his visit, KCNA reported that KJI’s first stop was the Kim Il Sung statue and revolutionary history exhibition.

Kim Jong Il tours the campus of KPA Unit #10215’s command staff university in May 2009 (Photo: KCNA)

Late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il tours the command staff university of KPA Unit #10215 in May 2009. Also seen in attendance in this image are Jang Song Taek, Kim Ki Nam, Ri Jae Il, MSS Senior (1st) Vice Minister Gen. U Tong Chuk and former MSS Vice Minister Ryu Kyong (Photo: KCNA)

In April 2010 and April 2011, KJI and KJU attended concerts by KPA Unit #10215’s art propaganda squad on the occasion of Kim Il Sung’s birthday (The Day of the Sun).  KJI and KJU also attended one of the unit’s concerts in October 2010, which marked their first public appearances after KJU’s mass public introduction at the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010.  On 25 October 2010, DPRK state media reported that KJI and KJU inspected KPA Unit #10215’s command element.  On 2 July 2011 DPRK state media reported that KJI and KJU attended a concert of the “the fourth second-term contest of art group members of the military families.”  Performing at that concert were the wives and families of members of KPA Unit #10215, KPA Unit #963 (Guard Command HQ) and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF].  These security organizations form the troika of security organizations with the mission of providing personal and political security for the Kim family and the DPRK’s core political leadership and guarantors of KJU’s succession.

Kim Jong Un’s wife Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu) is believed to have ties to the Ministry of State Security.  According to ROK media reports, Ri was a singer in KPA Unit #10215’s art propaganda squad.  It is entirely likely that as a singer, Ri may have been added to various singing groups and art troupes, particularly performances designated #1 events (attended by KJI or KJU).  In any event, if other reporting about Ri traveling to Japan in 2002 with a music group and ROK in 2005 as part of a cheering section are accurate then her name definitely passed through MSS’ channels.

**The MSS is the DPRK’s so-called secret police force whose primary mission is enforcing political security (ensuring KWP control and Kim family rule in the country).  MSS performs a number of functions including managing a domestic surveillance network, providing protection escort services, watching foreigners in the DPRK, monitoring the activities of DPRK citizens who travel (or return from) abroad, managing a network of detention facilities, monitoring (surveillance of) the communications and activities of party, government and economic officials, conducting foreign trade activities and general management and oversight of border security units and the Military Security Command.

Kim Kyong Hui an SPA No-Show

29 Sep

Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i), sister of the late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) and aunt of current supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) did not attend the 6th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] in Pyongyang on 25 September (Tuesday).  Kim Kyong Hui is also the Korean Workers’ Party Secretary of Organization, a member of the Political Bureau and wife of National Defense Commission [NDC] Vice Chairman Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek).      In DPRK state media coverage of the SPA session’s proceedings, Kim Kyong Hui was neither seated on the rostrum nor did she appear in video footage of DPRK elites sitting in the gallery.  According to KCNA English news reporting, her last reported public appearance was attending a visit by Kim Jong Un to the Taedonggang Tile Factory, which was reported on 1 September.  JoongAng Ilbo also noted her absence at Tuesday’s SPA session with its sources claiming that she was in Singapore receiving medical treatment, but another source quoted in the story saying that “There is nothing confirmed about her visit to Singapore.”  In a similar report in Chosun Ilbo an unnamed source also denied reports of her having health problems because DPRK elites “visit Singapore for fun.”  Chosun Ilbo‘s report also noted that she may be experiencing health difficulties typical to a 65-year old woman who’s lived a hard life.

Kim Kyong Hui’s last reported public appearance was at Kim Jong Un’s tour of the Taedonggang Tile Factory (Photos: KCNA and KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Kyong Hui’s absence at Tuesday’s parliamentary session is not entirely unexpected.  The only known session of the 12th SPA that she has attended was the 5th session held on 14 April 2012, the first SPA session to occur since Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011.  At that meeting she was seated prominently in the first row of the rostrum next to party elder Kim Kuk Tae.  At the time of that SPA session the DPRK’s political culture (including major policy and personnel) were shaped by KJI’s final “behests” (literally, the will of the suryong) with Kim Kyong Hui serving as her brother’s chief executor.  She has been an SPA deputy (delegate; member) since the 9th SPA in 1990.    Until the 5th session was held in April, she posed for commemorative photos of SPA members, but her attendance (not unlike her deceased brother’s late in his life) at SPA sessions was either irregular or not prominently featured in state media reporting.

Kim Kyong Hui (front row, center) sitting on the rostrum during a national meeting commemorating Kim Jong Il’s birthday in February 2012

During late August and early September, unconfirmed rumors appeared in east Asian media that Kim Kyong Hui’s was severely compromised from alcoholism.  A 24 August Sankei Shimbun report claimed that Kim Kyong Hui’s health was “worsening” and a report in Daily NK claimed that she received treatment for alcoholism.    There have been media rumors for over ten years**, that she has Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and other possible alcohol-related illnesses.  In a film about a leadership banquet held to commemorate the anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s military-first leadership, Kim Kyong Hui is not shown drinking during a round of toasts.  Accounts about her health may have derived from Kenji Fujimoto’s first visit to the DPRK in August when she did not attend a welcome banquet for him hosted by Kim Jong Un and attended by several core elites including her husband, Jang Song Taek.  Of course, unlike her husband or nephew, Kim Kyong Hui may not be as magnanimous about Fujimoto’s cook-and-tell memoirs after he returned to Japan from the DPRK in 2001.

Rumors and questions about the state of Kim Kyong Hui’s health were previously used as a cover story whilst DPRK elites engaged the services of foreign doctors to treat Kim Jong Il.  In March 2009, Dong-a Ilbo reported that KJI’s eldest son, Kim Jong Nam (Kim Cho’ng-nam) visited Paris to consult with French neurosurgeon Dr. Francis-Xavier Roux.  Dong-a Ilbo reported at the time that “a Korean-Japanese businessman who can freely enter Pyongyang via Beijing said yesterday that her long addiction to alcohol caused severe brain damage.”  Dong-a Ilbo‘s source told the newspaper that “when Roux visited north Korea, rumors about Kim Jong Il’s health spread [but] the North neither confirmed nor denied this apparently on purpose to divert world attention from his sister’s critical condition.”  At the time he visited the DPRK Dr. Roux did not disclose the reason for his visit.  After KJI died, Dr. Roux gave several interview to French media where he talked about treating KJI and Kim Jong Un’s somber presence at his father’s bedside.

The primary reason for Kim Kyong Hui’s prominence in DPRK political culture and her public role during 2009 to 2011 was linked to the transition from KJI to KJU.  As Kim Jong Un’s hereditary succession quietly unfolded in 2009, his aunt’s initial presence presented the Kim Family and the core elite’s united front  to support his eventual accession.  She also served, to appropriate US terminology, as her brother’s power-of-attorney and health care proxy.  There was no one else in the DPRK who could have ordered KJI’s personal physicians to cease any further medical interventions as he lay dying on a chilly December morning.  After Kim Jong Un was publicly acclaimed supreme leader, her public appearances gradually receded.  In the process of KJU’s migration to the power center, his aunt (in coordination with other members of the core leadership) had to disappear any threats to his authority (Message: “Don’t f— with my nephew!”).

Kim Kyong Hui (R) attending a vist by her brother to a shop in Pothonggang District, Pyongyang in August 2009 (Photo: KCNA)

If Kim Kyong Hui is, in fact, critically ill, it may explain why the number of Kim Jong Un’s reported public appearances has subsided.  During July 2012 DPRK state media reported that KJU made 12 public appearances and in August 2012 he made 15 appearances.  As of 28 September (Friday), KJU had only made 9 appearances which might suggest to some Pyongyang watchers that Kim Kyong Hui is ill and that the family is staying close to her bedside.  One might take Kim Kyong Hui’s absence in conjunction with the diminishing public profile of Ri Sol Ju.  Her last reported public appearance with her husband was attending KJU’s visit to the Pyongyang Folk Park which was reported by DPRK state media on 7 September, less than a week after Kim Kyong Hui’s last known public activity.

And yet, Kim Kyong Hui may have joined the ranks of DPRK elites who have migrated back to the shadows.  During May she conducted a series of unreported site visits and meetings with foreigners in North Hamgyo’ng Province.  This low-key activity hews more closely to the m.o. of her four decade career than holding a notebook on a factory tour and looking enthusiastic.  Even when she was accompanying Kim Jong Il, she spent most of her time with KJI’s personal aides and family members, eluding the omnipresent videographers and photographers.

**One is reminded of what Michael Coreleone said in Godfather II, “Hyman Roth has been dying of the same heart attack for the last 20 years.”

KJU Named KPA Marshal, Hyon Yong Chol Named Chief of General Staff

22 Jul

Kim Jong Un (L) and VMar Ri Yong Ho (R) in October 2010 (Photo: KCTV/KCNA)

Three days after the dismissal of VMar Ri Yong Ho as Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff, Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) was named KPA Marshal.  While the title establishes KJU as the DPRK military’s highest ranking officer and he has received one of the last titles left vacant by his father’s death, the rank is a first-among-equals honorific.  Despite the title’s possible cosmetic qualities, it is an indication (along with Ri’s dismissal) that KJU’s leadership training wheels have been removed.

There are only two DPRK elites who hold the rank, both of whom served with KJU’s grandfather in the 88th Sniper Brigade: Ri Ul Sol (former chief of the Guard Command), Kim Chol Man (former Chairman of the Second Economy Commission).  Kim Jong Il was appointed Marshal in April 1992.

A view of the venue of a meeting of KPA officers and service members announcing Kim Jong Un’s appointment as Marshal on 18 July 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

With KJU’s elevation to Marshal, the central party and KPA staged a series of loyalty rallies and other public events.  On 18 July (Wednesday) “a resolution meeting of officers and men of the KPA” was convened at the 25 April House of Culture.  At the beginning of the meeting, VMar Choe Ryong Hae, director of the KPA General Political Department announced the decision of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Committee, the Party Central Military Commission [CMC], the National Defense Commission [NDC] and the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium (standing committee) on KJU’s new title.

VMar Choe Ryong Hae, director of the KPA General Political Department, speaks at an 18 July 2012 meeting announcing Kim Jong Un’s appointment as Marshal (Photo: KCNA still)

According to DPRK state media, following an ovation, Choe’s announcement was “followed by a debate session.”  The first speaker was VMar Hyon Yong Chol who was formally identified as the newly appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff.  In his remarks Hyon said that KJU’s elevation was “a great event which powerfully displayed at home and abroad the rock-solid faith and will of our army and people.”  Hyon also said “the people’s army should not only cherish the absolutely unchanging faith in the fact that the Great Comrade Kim Il Sung and the Great Comrade Kim Jong Il are eternally with us, but become a pure ideological body, a systematic monolith which shares the ideology, will and breath with the respected and beloved Comrade Supreme Commander, by defending to the last with its life the party Central Committee. . .further deepening and developing at a new higher level, the movement to win the title of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment, and continuing to thoroughly embody the juche-oriented military ideology and line of the party in military and political work.”

Chief of the KPA General Staff VMar Hyon yong Chol speaks at a loyalty meeting of KPA officers and service members at the 25 April House of Culture on 18 July 2012 (Photo: KCNA still)

Hyon Yong Chol was followed by Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, VMar Kim Jong Gak.  VMar Kim said that KJU’s elevation was “a noteworthy event in strengthening and developing of the revolutionary armed forces and a historic opportunity to give encouragement and hope to the DPRK’s soldier’s and people.”  VMar Kim also said that KJU “has developed and enriched the juche-oriented military idea, strategy, and tactics of the great generalissimos with will to complete the cause of the juche revolution initiated on Mt. Paektu to the end with the gun barrel [and] a new golden age has opened up for strengthening and developing the people’s army.”    VMar Kim was followed by Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, deputy director of the KPA General Political Department, who said “the awarding of the title is an expression of the DPRK soldiers’ and people’s boundless loyalty to Kim Jong Un.”

VMar Kim Jong Gak speaks at a loyalty meeting on 18 July 2012 (Photo: KCNA still)

On Wednesday (18 July) the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces convened a similar rally to announce KJU’s new title at the Ministry of People’s Security Headquarters in Pyongyang.  The rally was followed by a dancing party in the MPS’ assembly square.  According to KCNA,  “all the KPISF service personnel will concentrate all efforts in their work for people’s security upon inheriting the tradition of devotedly defending the leader and more thoroughly establish the monolithic commanding system of the supreme commander in the whole army.”  The rally’s speakers also said that “with Kim Jong Un held in high esteem at the highest post of the party, state and army, the Korean revolution could firmly ensure the purity and continuity despite the grim tempests of history, give full play to invincible might of Korean-style socialism and open a grand history of another 100 years of Juche era.”

Members of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces applaud after the announcement of Kim Jong Un’s elevation to Marshal at a meeting of KPISF and Ministry of People’s Security personnel at MPS Headquarters on 18 July 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

KPISF personnel have a celebratory dance party at MPS headquarters on 18 July 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

A view of the venue of a congratulatory meeting of Pyongyang citizens and the central leadership at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on 19 July 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

On 19 July (Thursday), a “congratulatory meeting of Pyongyang” citizens took place at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium during the afternoon.  This event was attended by three members of the KWP Political Bureau Presidium–SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim and VMar Choe Ryong Hae–and was presided over by Pyongyang KWP Committee Chief Secretary Mun Kyong Dok.  First to speak at the meeting was Kim Yong Nam who read the communique on KJU’s appointment as Marshal.  Kim was followed by KWP Secretary Choe Tae Bok who said the decision “reflected the absolute support” for KJU’s leadership which had “helped strengthen the country’s defense and maintain its status as a nuclear state.”  Choe was followed by Col. Gen. Yun Tong Hyon (representing the KPA), Hyon Sang Ju (representing workers in his capacity as Chairman of the Central Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea), Ri Myong Gil (representing agricultural employees his capacity as Chairman of the Central Committee of the Union of Agricultural Workers) and Jon Yong Nam (representing students and youths in his capacity as Chairman of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Youth League).

Ri Ul Sol (Photos: KCNA)

Kim Jong Un’s promotion to Marshal was the subject of several essays and editorials in the pages of the KWP’s newspaper Rodong Sinmun.  In addition to the unsigned collective efforts marking KJU’s elevation, there were several bylined pieces by members of the core elite.  Publication of these essays conveys to both domestic and external audiences the “single-hearted unity” underlining KJU’s elevation and Ri Yong Ho’s dismissal from office.  Writing for the 1st Revolutionary Generation, Mar. Ri Ul Sol described KJU as “the spitting image of the fatherly leader (KIS) and the great general (KJI).”  Mar. Ri also vouched for KJU’s filial piety, writing, “Our respected and beloved Comrade Kim Jong Un is precisely the esteemed person who condescends to read the simple letters which we, the anti-Japanese fighters, respectfully offered, expresses his determination to devote his all to the revolution while saying that he is grateful to us and gives a thousand-fold and a hundred-fold strength and courage to us saying that he feels reassured only when we, the old fighters, are healthy.”

Kim Yong Il (Photos: KCNA, KPN, Xinhua)

On behalf of the central party, KWP International Department Director Kim Yong Il wrote that “we shall make party organizations and party functionaries unreservedly display the might of their militant capabilities in faithfully upholding the military-first revolutionary leadership . . . highly enhance the spirit of death-defyingly safeguarding the revolution’s nerve center among functionaries, party members, and working people [and] further thoroughly materialize the Kim Jong Il patriotism in the march of great upswing.” Because Kim Yong Il is a key official in DPRK-China relations (among other responsibilities) his contribution to Rodong is targeted to DPRK citizens residing overseas, as well as official of foreign fraternal political parties with which his department regularly communicates and interacts.

Kim Kyok Sik (Photo: KCNA)

The most interesting missive published in Rodong came from Gen. Kim Kyok Sik.  Gen. Kim was Ri Yong Ho’s predecessor as Chief of the General Staff, a position he held from 2007 to 2009.  Gen. Kim wrote, in part, “engraving in our hearts the teaching of the respected and beloved comrade supreme commander who said that we should always take the lead and should become forerunners also in inheriting the tradition of the anti-Japanese partisans and in strengthening the great unity between the army and the people like a rock, we will continue to advance, holding high the slogan, ‘Let us assist the people!’”–which was put forth by the great general–and will perform more good deeds for the people and will fully fulfill our duties as the army of the people with the spirit of working for our own parents and siblings for our own homes.”

Hyon Yong Chol Promoted to Vice Marshal

17 Jul

VMar Hyon Yong Chol (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

DPRK state media reported on 16 July (Monday) that former commander of the VIII Army Corps, Gen. Hyon Yong Chol (Hyo’n Yo’ng-ch’o’l) was promoted to the rank of Vice Marshal in a joint decision “by the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the National Defence Commission of the DPRK.”  Hyon’s promotion occurred one day after VMar Ri Yong Ho was removed from “all of his posts in the DPRK” due to ill health at a Sunday (17 July) meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee Political Bureau  While KCNA reported that Ri was removed from “all of his posts,” there was no explicit notice of his removal from the office of Chief of the KPA General Staff.

Given the speed with which Hyon was promoted, it is highly likely that he has replaced Ri.  It could take several days, even a few weeks, before Hyon’s appointment is publicized.  Ri Yong Ho was appointed Chief of the KPA General Staff in February 2009, however he was not identified in that position by DPRK state media until March 2009 when he participated in the election of deputies (delegates) to the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly.

KCNA reports:

Hyon Yong Chol was awarded the title of vice marshal of the Korean People’s Army.

A decision on awarding the title was made by the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the National Defence Commission of the DPRK on Monday.

Yonhap reports:

North Korea announced Tuesday that it has promoted Army Gen. Hyon Yong-chol to the post of vice marshal.

“Hyon Yong-chol was awarded the title of vice marshal of the Korean People’s Army,” said the KCNA, the communist nation’s state news agency.

“A decision on awarding the title was made by the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the National Defense Commission of the DPRK on Monday,” it added in a brief dispatch, monitored in Seoul. DPRK is the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On Monday, the North announced that Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, its top military commander known as a guardian of the North’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, was relieved of all of his posts due to “illness.” Kim is reportedly in his late 20s.

The unexpected personnel move sparked media speculation in South Korea and foreign nations over the possibility of a power struggle or other political changes in the reclusive nation.

A biography on VMar Hyon Yong Chol is available here.

My King is My Husband

15 Jul

Ko Yong Hui (3rd L) shakes hands with female KPA service members in an image from a documentary film produced about here. Seen in the background (2nd L) is Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, who has long been tied to internal publicity efforts in support of Ko, and (background, 2nd R) VMar Hyon Chol Hae (Photo: Korea Documentary Film Studio/KCNA, RENK/Daily NK)

As rumors circulated in various media this week about the identity of Kim Jong Un’s wife, Daily NK released the entire version of Mother of Great Military-First Korea on 12 July (Thursday).  The film is about the activities of Kim Jong Un’s mother, Ko Yong Hui (Ko Yo’ng-hu’i), who is identified under the alias Ri U’n-sil.  In the film Ko attends various military and economic inspections with Kim Jong Il.  She is also seen riding a horse with KJI, preparing food and handing out gold watches.  Toward the end of the film, a voice identified as Ko’s can be heard delivering a birthday speech on an audio track.  While she speaks, still images of Ko caring for and tutoring Kim Jong Un are shown and then transition into film footage of Kim Jong Un from 2010 and 2011.  Ko is depicted in the film as a member of the Kim Family to be revered, along with KJI’s mother Kim Jong Suk and his paternal grandmother Kang Pan Sok.  The film also links Kim Jong Un’s outgoing personality (i.e.,  “the good heart of the third son”) to Ko, not KJI.  The film is also available via YouTube.

Daily NK summarizes the film:

This documentary, which was produced in 2011 by an arm of the Chosun Workers’ Party Central Committee, was screened for senior Party cadre review in May, at which time it was leaked to a group based in Japan.

The film contains footage and photos of Koh Young Hee in the period following the 100-day mourning period for the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994. Throughout the 1990s, Koh accompanied Kim Jong Il as the de facto ‘first lady’ during his guidance visits to military, industrial and cultural sites.

The narration (unfortunately, no subtitles are available) propagates the idea that Koh, who died in Paris in 2004, represented a powerful continuance of a tradition established by Kang Ban Seok (Kim Il Sung’s mother) and Kim Jong Suk (Kim Jong Il’s mother). Forging her image as a ‘Great Mother’ of the nation is intended to strengthen Kim Jong Eun’s legitimacy as a great leader of pure Mt. Baekdu blood.

On 6 July and 8 July, Kim Jong Un made two public appearances accompanied by a woman who is most likely his wife.  The same woman joined him during a visit to Kyongsang Kindergarten, reported by DPRK state media on 15 July (Sunday).  The identity of the woman who accompanied KJU, despite a hodgepodge of speculation and rumors, remains unknown.

Kim Jong Un’s wife (3rd L) watches as her husband talks to students at Kyongsang Kindergarten. Also in attendance are Korean Workers’ Party Senior Deputy Director Ri Jae Il (L) and KWP Director Jang Song Taek (2nd R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Other than being seen in the shadows crossing the path of Jang Song Taek during part of Kim Jong Il’s funeral, KJU’s wife may have attended a visit by the DPRK’s central leadership to the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun on Kim Jong Il’s birthday in February 2012.  As DPRK elites lined up to pay their respects to a marble KJI icon, several rows behind Kim Jong Un, in a line-up consisting of KJI’s former aides in the National Defense Commission and Personal Secretariat was KJI’s 5th consort and secretary, Kim Ok.  Standing to the right (Kim Ok’s left) was a woman who may, or may not, be KJU’s wife, standing at the end.  The woman was literally out of place and this was the only queue with an uneven number of participants, observed on the Korean Central Television [KCTV] film.  This politically choreographed asymmetry prevented this mystery woman from being completely filmed by KCTV cameras, seen in the images below:

The wife theory attracting the most attention is that KJU is married to Hyon Song-wol (a.k.a. Han Song-wo’l), a graduate of Pyongyang University of Music and a former member of the Poch’o’nbo Electronic Ensemble.  Kim Jong Un and Hyon were alleged to have been in a relationship which was broken off because Kim Jong Il did not approve.  According to Sankei Shimbun, Hyon left the Poch’o’nbo group in 2006 and married an officer of the Korean People’s Army [KPA], but after KJI’s death in Decmeber 2011 she resumed her relationship with Kim Jong Un.

The other theory on Kim Jong Un’s wife, which preexisted rumors of a marriage to Hyon, is that he was married in 2010 and his wife is a 27-year old graduate student at Kim Il Sung University, originally from Ch’o’ngjin, North Hamgyo’ng Province.  DPRK leadership expert Cho’ng So’ng-chang (Jeong Seong-jang) told NoCut News: “By tacitly emphasizing that 1st Secretary Kim is a leader who is not single, but already married and with a wife, is aiming to make a frontal breakthrough in the age issue, his biggest weakness, and implant an image of a steady leader.”  Interestingly, according to Cho’ng, the mother of this KJU wife is a section chief of gynecology unit at a Ch’o’ngin hospital.  On 11 July KCNA published a piece that said the country “has taken steps conducive to the protection and improvement of women’s reproductive health.”

Kim Il Sung’s second wife, Kim Song Ae, regularly appeared at state occasions. In these images she is shown waiting for the arrival of Nicolae Ceausescu in Pyongyang in 1980. In the image on the right Kim Song Ae stands with Elena Ceausescu as a national anthem is played (Photo: KCNA still)

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