DPRK state media reported that a tablet bearing the autograph of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) was placed at Taeso’ngsan General Hospital during a ceremony held on 10 June (Monday). KCNA reported that Kim Jong Un sent the tablet “after wisely leading the work to complete its construction at the best level and open it as early as possible as instructed by leader Kim Jong Il.” According to KCNA “right after the liberation of Korea, Generalissimo Kim Il Sung had a hospital for soldiers built and clearly indicated the way to be followed by it” and that “true to his noble intention, Kim Jong Il initiated the building of the Taesongsan General Hospital and worked heart and soul for its completion.” The ceremony placing the tablet at the hospital was presided over by VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department. According to KCNA Choe said “that the medical officers and nurses of the hospital should devotedly save lives of service personnel, bearing deep in mind the autograph of Kim Jong Un.” After the speeches, ceremony participants examined the tablet and were received briefings about its installation and significance.
DPRK state media reported on 28 May (Tuesday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited the 25 August** Fishery Station subordinate to Korean People’s Army [KPA] Unit #313***. His last observed appearance was his field inspection of KPA Navy Unit #291. Attending Kim Jong Un’s visit to the fishery station were VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of KPA General Political Department), Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau), Col. Gen. Son Chol Ju, Col. Gen. Ryom Chol Song, Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok (1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Col. Gen. Yun Tong Hyon (Senior Deputy Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Organization Guidance Department), Col. Gen. Jo Kyong Chol (Chief of the Military Security Command), Maj. Gen. An Ji Yong, Lt. Gen. Kim Su Gil and Hwang Pyong So (Deputy Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department).
Kim Jong Un began his visit to the fishery station greeting military and civilian personnel who manage the fishery. According to KCNA, he said “the fishery station should catch a lot of fishes with good fishing boats and supply the soldiers on the forefront with them all the year round so that the fishing boats provided by the Party may pay off profusely.” He climbed aboard a fishing boat and toured the engine room to learn about the ship’s engine and fuel consumption. He also toured the cabins utilized by the fishing crew and said that “an experience gained by a fishery base in effectively using spent fuel, underscoring the need to make sure that fishermen can have rest in a warm place as their hands are wet in cold water of rough sea.” Kim Jong Un also instructed that each fishing boat should catch 1,000 tons of fish per year and that the fishery station managers should “write a letter to the Supreme Commander when they honor their plan.” Whilst touring the fishing boat, Kim Jong Un mentioned that the KPA is engaged in a campaign to grow soybeans,”calling for successfully conducting both soybean growing and fishing operations to provide the soldiers with soybean and fishes all the year round.” He also named the fishing boat he toured “naming it ‘maple,’ symbolic of autumn.”
Kim Jong Un also visited a historical exhibition about the fishery and a monument denoting late leader Kim Jong Il’s visit to the fishery station on 25 August 1973. He also toured a tackle shop and a refrigeration unit. According to KCNA, Kim Jong Un “called on the fishery station to undertake aquaculture on a large scale while catching a lot of fishes in order to boost aquatic products, adding that it is necessary to cultivate seaweed, tangle, mussel, etc. in a big way” and he said he “visited the supply base on the east coast under KPA Unit 639 a few days ago where he saw it providing good supply service and catching a lot of fishes by putting fishing operations on a scientific basis, urging them to follow the working style and experience of the officials at that unit.” Kim Jong Un ended his visit to the 25 August Fishery Station of KPA Unit #313 by posing for commemorative photographs with the fishery station’s military and civilian managers and employees.
Kim Jong Un’s visit to the 25 August Fishery Station was the first public event in which all of the senior KPA officials affected by personnel changes during February to May 2013 were present. This was the first observed occasion in DPRK state media that gathered Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau, appointed February 2013), Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, appointed May 2013), Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok (1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, appointed May 2013) and Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (Chief of the KPA General Staff, appointed May 2013).
**The fishery station of KPA Unit #313 is named after the date (25 August) in 1960 when Kim Jong Il inspected the 105th Tank Division. The DPRK’s official history marks this as the beginning of Military-First (so’ngun) politics.
***In previous mentions in DPRK state media, KPA Unit #313 had been identified as “KPA Large Combined (taeyonhap pudae) #313.” It is not clear whether DPRK news writers streamlined the nomenclature of the KPA unit or if KPA Unit #313 had been downgraded from a large combined unit (a KPA unit consisting of several combined units) with its assets merged or migrated to other KPA units as part of a force restructuring process in the KPA.
DPRK state media reported on 24 May (Friday) that VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department and Member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau Presidium, returned to the DPRK from a three-day visit to China as a “special envoy” of supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n). VMar Choe and a senior-level delegation which included Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau), Kim Song Nam (Deputy Director of the KWP International Affairs Department), Kim Hyong Jun (Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Lt. Gen. Kim Su Gil (Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces) landed in Pyongyang on Friday night. At the airport they were greeted by Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Col. Gen. Son Chol Ju (KPA General Political Department), Ri Yong Chol (Deputy Director of the KWP International Affairs Department), Pak Kil Yon (Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and DPRK Ambassador-at-Large), Liu Hongcai (Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK) and other DPRK and Chinese officials.
After arriving in Beijing on 22 May (Wednesday), Choe Ryong Hae met with Wang Jiarui, head of the Communist Party of China [CPC] Central Committee International Liaison Department. On 23 May (Thursday), VMar Choe and the DPRK delegation, accompanied by Liu Jieyi, toured the Beijing Economic and Technological Development District. According to KCNA, Choe and the delegation were “greeted by a leading official of the district on the spot” and were “briefed on the history of the district and its management and operation.” Later on Thursday, VMar Choe and the delegation met with Liu Yunshan, the CPC’s propaganda [publicity] secretary and a member of the CPC Political Bureau Standing Committee (presidium). Liu “warmly welcomed the China visit by the special envoy of First Secretary Kim Jong Un, on behalf of the CPC Central Committee.”
According to KCNA, during the meeting Choe Ryong Hae told Liu that “he came to China as a special envoy of the dear respected Kim Jong Un, adding that it is the invariable stand of the WPK to consolidate and develop generation after generation the DPRK-China friendship associated with the devoted efforts made by the leaders of the elder generation of the two parties and countries” and that the “DPRK will always advance hand in hand with the Chinese comrades to defend the socialist cause in the two countries and boost the friendship and solidarity between the two peoples, he noted, expressing hope that the CPC and the Chinese people would register greater successes in socialist construction with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the CPC with Xi Jinping as its general secretary.” Liu Yunshan, according to KCNA, said that “the Chinese party and government deem it very important to steadily develop the China-DPRK friendly relations on a strategic level and from a long-term viewpoint,” that “the China visit by the special envoy is of weighty significance as it is taking place at a time when the Sino-DPRK relations have entered a new era of carrying forward the tradition and future, Liu said, stressing the need to boost the bilateral relations of friendship, a precious treasure common to the peoples of the two countries, down through generations” and that “the Chinese side hopes that the Sino-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation will comprehensively grow stronger in political, economic, cultural and other fields as required by the new era.” KCNA also reported that ”both sides exchanged views on the situation of the Korean Peninsula and issues of mutual concern.”
According to Xinhua, Liu Yunshan “pointed out that peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula conform with the common interests of all countries in the region,” “expressed hope that all relevant parties should stick to the goal of denuclearization, persist on maintaining peace and stability of the peninsula and resolve problems through dialogue and consultation,” “called for the parties to adopt substantial actions to ease tensions, actively embark on dialogue and restart the six-party talks as soon as possible” and “urged the relevant parties to make unremitting effort to realize denuclearization of the peninsula and persistent peace and stability in the Northeast Asia region.” Choe Ryong Hae, according to Xinhua, said “the DPRK highly appreciated the effort that the Chinese side has made in maintaining peace and stability of the peninsula and on pushing the Korean Peninsula issue back on the track of dialogue and consultation,” ”the DPRK hopes to concentrate its energy on developing its economy and improving people’s livelihood and is ready to create a peaceful external environment for this” and that “the DPRK side is willing to accept advice from the Chinese side and carry out dialogue with relevant parties.” Liu Yunshan said “it is the consistent stance of the CPC and Chinese government to continuingly consolidate and develop friendly relations between the two countries” and “expressed the readiness to work with the DPRK side to enhance communication, increase common ground and advance China-DPRK relations in a healthy, stable way.” Choe remarked that “his visit as the special envoy of Kim is aimed to improve, consolidate and develop DPRK-China relations. He said the DPRK side is ready to work with the Chinese side to continuously push forward the development of bilateral relations.” After meeting with Choe Ryong Hae, Liu Yunshan hosted a reception for VMar Choe and the DPRK delegation.
Choe Ryong Hae’s meeting with Liu Yunshan was a topic of conversation at the daily news conference at the Chinese Foreign Ministry on 24 May. Asked about the Choe-Liu meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said “through the current visit, we hope to consolidate and develop China-DPRK relations, ease the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula, push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and promote the resolution of related issues through dialogue and consultations.” Hong also expanded on Liu Yunshan’s remarks during his meeting with Choe saying that Liu “pointed out: eace and stability on the Korean Peninsula serve the common interests of countries in the region. It is hoped that the parties concerned will stick to the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula, remain committed to maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and solving problems through dialogue and consultations, take concrete action to ease tensions, actively pursue dialogue and consultations, restart the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible, and make unremitting efforts to achieve the denuclearization of the peninsula as well as lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”
On 24 May (Friday), Choe Ryong Hae and the DPRK delegation met with Gen. Fan Changlong, Member of the CPC Political Bureau and Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission. Gen. Fan “warmly welcomed the special envoy’s visit to China” and “noted that the two armies and peoples forged the militant friendship, fighting shoulder to shoulder in the same trench,” according to KCNA. Fan also said Choe’s visit “to China is of great significance in the development of the bilateral ties, he expressed the belief that the friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties, the two countries and the two armies would grow stronger on a new high stage.” VMar Choe told Gen. Fan “that the friendship between the DPRK and China was sealed in blood in the hard-fought battlefields including the anti-Japanese war, the war for liberating Northeast China and the Fatherland Liberation War, adding that it is an issue of particular importance in defending socialism in the two countries to boost the exchange and cooperation between the two armies” and “expressed the expectation that the two armies would play the role of a pioneer and vanguard in the development of the DPRK-China friendly ties in the future.” KCNA reported that “both sides exchanged views on the matters of boosting the friendly ties between the two armies.”
According to Xinhua, during the meeting, Gen. Fan Changlong told Choe Ryong Hae “China always holds the view that the peace and stability of the peninsula serves the common interests of all involved parties” and “expressed hope that the parties involved could stick to the denuclearization, safeguard peninsular peace and stability, resolve disputes and conflicts through dialogues and consultations, and make unremitting efforts for the realization of lasting peace and stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.” VMar Choe, according to Xinhua, “highlighted the complicated the situation and lack of safety assurances on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” said that “ the DPRK people needs a stable and peaceful environment for the development of their country” and pledged that “the DPRK is willing to work with parties concerned to find ways to resolve the current conflicts via dialogues.”
Later in the day on Friday, Choe Ryong Hae changed out of his KPA dress uniform into the black gakuran suit of senior party official to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People. At the beginning of the meeting VMar Choe and President Xi exchanged civilities. Choe sent along Kim Jong Un’s greetings to Xi who “expressed deep thanks for this and asked Choe Ryong Hae to convey his cordial greetings to Kim Jong Un.” VMar Choe then passed along a private letter from Kim Jong Un to President Xi. According to KCNA, President Xi “expressed deep thanks once again to Kim Jong Un for dispatching Choe Ryong Hae as his special envoy and conveying his personal letter.” KCNA reported that in Kim Jong Un’s letter to Xi, KJU “underlined the need to carry forward and consolidate the traditional DPRK-China friendship provided and cultivated by the revolutionaries of the elder generation of the two countries, Xi Jinping said, noting that the Chinese party and government deem it very important to develop the Sino-DPRK friendly relations on a strategic level and from a long-term viewpoint and that it is the consistent policy of the Chinese party and government to inherit the tradition, face up to the future and strengthen cooperation.”
According to KCNA, Xi noted that “Chinese party and government hope for expanding the friendly exchange and cooperation with the party and government of the DPRK.” Xi also said “the Chinese party and government have consistently supported the building of a thriving socialist nation of Korean style. . .wishing the DPRK success in developing the economy and improving the standard of people’s living.” Choe Ryong Hae said “the DPRK and the PRC are friendly neighbors linked by the same mountain and rivers and their friendship has a long history and tradition. It is the invariable stand of the party and government of the DPRK to boost the long-standing traditional friendship between the DPRK and China.” VMar Choe also remarked that “the armies and peoples of the two countries know well that the DPRK-China friendship associated with the devoted efforts of the revolutionaries of the elder generation of the two countries is a precious one which cannot be exchanged for anything. . . expressing the belief that the traditional friendship would further flourish in the future under the particular care of the top leaders of the two parties and two countries” and “expressed hope that the Chinese people would realize ‘the dream of China’ and achieve bigger successes in accomplishing the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the CPC with Xi Jinping as its general secretary.”
Xinhua reported that Xi Jinping told Choe that “China has a very clear position concerning the issue that all the parties involved should stick to the objective of denuclearization, safeguard the peace and stability on the peninsula, and resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation” and President Xi “called on all parties concerned to remain calm and with restraint, ease the situation and restart the process of the six-party talks, in a bid to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and safeguard peace and stability in Northeast Asia.” According to Xinhua Choe Ryong Hae said “it is the sincere wish of the DPRK to create a peaceful external environment to develop its economy and improve people’s livelihood” and that “the DPRK is ready to work with parties concerned to properly solve relevant issues through multiform dialogue and consultation, including the six-party talks” and “willing to adopt active moves to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.” Xi also noted to Choe that “bilateral friendship conforms to the common interests of the two countries as well as their people,” and that “the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government will make joint efforts with the DPRK to promote the sound and stable development of bilateral relations.” Choe told Xi that the “DPRK values its traditional friendship with China, said Choe, adding that the DPRK will work with China to beef up high-level exchanges and in-depth communication, so as to constantly consolidate and develop their friendship.”
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.”
DPRK state media reported that a senior delegation led by VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department, departed Pyongyang and arrived in Beijing on 22 May (Wednesday). VMar Choe, acting as a “special envoy for Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n),” was joined on the trip by Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau), Kim Song Nam (Deputy Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] International Affairs Department with the portfolio for Chinese relations), Kim Hyong Jun (Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Lt. Gen. Kim Su Gil (KPA/Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces). Citing unnamed diplomatic sources in Beijing, Yonhap News Agency reported that after arriving in Beijing at around 10:30 AM, Choe and the delegation were driven to Diaoyutai Guest House. At the airport the DPRK delegation was received by DPRK Ambassador to the PRC Ji Jae Ryong and Deputy Director of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China [CPC] Central Committee.
Shortly after his arrival in Beijing, Choe Ryong Hae met with Wang Jiarui, head of the CPC Central Committee International Liaison Department. Details of the meeting were not disclosed in Chinese media.
During his visit, VMar Choe will most likely meet with senior Chinese officials including PRC President Xi Jinping. This is the first reported visit by a senior DPRK official acting as a representative for Kim Jong Un, since KJU formally became supreme leader in January 2012. Choe Ryong Hae and the members of the delegation are the most high level DPRK officials to publicly visit China since August 2012 when Jang Song Taek (Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and Director of the KWP Administration Department) led a large delegation on a weeklong visit in his capacity as the DPRK’s Chairman of the DPRK-China Joint Guidance Committee. Choe’s arrival in Beijing was the first publicized visit by the head of the KPA General Political Department since November 2009, when then-Gen. Kim Jong Gak led a KPA delegation on a visit to Beijing and to Jilin Province.
The visit to China by Choe Ryong Hae and the senior delegation occurred after a close adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the DPRK. Isao Ijima, an adviser to Abe with ties to the DPRK leadership, visited Pyongyang during 14 to 17 May. Ijima was unofficially accompanied on his DPRK visit by members of Chosen Soren (Chongryon), the pro-DPRK association of Korean residents in Japan. During his stay, Ijima met with KWP Secretary for International Affairs Kim Yong Il, Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (the DPRK’s nominal head of state and #2 leading official) and DPRK Ambassador-at-Large (with the portfolio for DPRK-Japan interactions) Song Il Ho. Ijima’s visit to Pyongyang was criticized as “unhelpful” by the South Korean government and viewed with some ambivalence by the United States, however Ijima’s trip was supported by China with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei saying, “We hope tensions on the Korean Peninsula will be eased, and regional peace and stability will be secured through the contact (between Iijima and North Korea)We hope (the latest visit) will be beneficial for resolving problems, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Choe and the delegation also arrived in Beijing one day after the DPRK released a Chinese fishing trawler and its 16 crew members. The Dalian-based trawler “Liaoning Generic Fishing No. 2522″ and the crew members were captured in Chinese waters by an unknown group of DPRK pirates on 5 May 2013 and held until 21 May 2013. The captured fisherman were held for a $75,000 ransom that was not paid The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese border security forces informed the DPRK about the trawler’s capture and demanded that DPRK authorities investigate the ship’s seizure. The incident was not publicized until the fishing boat’s owner wrote about it on his microblog. After the incident was publicized, the Chinese government requested that the DPRK release the trawler and its crew.
Choe Ryong Hae and the delegation’s visit to Beijing also occurs one month before Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to hold a meeting with US President Barack Obama and a possible summit in Beijing in June with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The Xi-Obama meeting has been scheduled for 7 June and 8 June at the former estate of Walter and Lee Annenberg, Sunnylands, in Rancho Mirage, California. The South Korean government has yet to finalize a date and itinerary for Park Geun-hye’s visit to China in June. Park initially wanted a visit to China to be her first trip as ROK President, but instead she traveled to the United States on a six-day working visit in early May.
Choe Ryong Hae’s arrival in Beijing incited a round of speculation by Pyongyang watchers. Professor Lee Nam-joo told Yonhap “It may be the start of policies that can ease tensions and lead to dialogue. The envoy should be able to help reduce tensions which have reached unprecedented levels recently” and Professor Yang Moo-jin said that “Pyongyang may seek to highlight the close ‘blood alliance’ that existed between the two countries and seek an outlet for inter-Korea talks as well as dialogue with the United States.” Professor Yang also said that ”with Washington and Beijing expected to touch on North Korea at an upcoming summit meeting, the envoy can explain to China the North’s position, which may open new dialogue channels not only between Pyongyang and Washington but between South and North Korea.”
Talks between the DPRK delegation and senior Chinese officials will likely touch on strategic issues including the DPRK’s launch of a rocket/ballistic missile on 12 December 2013 and the 12 February 2013 test of a nuclear device. If China was hoping that a senior-level interaction would cause the DPRK to return to the Six Party Talks on denuclearization they are likely to find that Choe Ryong Hae’s visit may not bear the fruit that they seek. DPRK Ambassador to the Russian Federation Kim Yong Jae gave an interview with Russia’s Interfax news service, published on 21 May, in which he said, “The army and the people of North Korea, who are living in the conditions of permanent nuclear threats, sanctions and a blockade, will in every possible way reinforce nuclear deterrence forces that are destined to protect the sovereignty of the country and a right for the nation to exist, safeguard peace and promote stability in the region.”
Kim Yong Jae also said “The essence of the US strategy in Korea is to strangle North Korea. It is North Korea that is the first object in implementation of the [USA's] strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. The US global strategy is a strategy of domination of the whole planet and to implement it, a strategy of reorienting [the USA] to the Asia-Pacific region has been launched. In accordance with it, pressure is also being built up on China and Russia in the Northeast Asia and a special geopolitical role is assigned to the Korean peninsula” and that ”the people of this region, like other world peaceloving forces, not only failed to exert pressure on the USA to disrupt its large-scale military exercises, but also succumbed to the influence of a sophisticated information war to dishonour North Korea on the part of the USA and South Korea.”
“Despite the fact that after I am gone, it will still not be too late to use your people, why are you in such a rush to try to handle things your way?”–Kim Jong Il, December 2011
Col. Gen. Jon Chang Bok has been appointed as the DPRK’s senior vice minister of defense. Col. Gen. Jon, the former director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Logistics Department, was identified as 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces when he attended Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visit to the 20 February Foodstuffs Factory of the KPA. Jon Chang Bok is a member of the Party Central Committee and was a member of the National Funeral Committee for Kim Jong Il. His last observed public appearance was his attendance with KJU at a May Day-themed concert by the U’nhasu Orchestra in early May 2013. Jon also visited Ku’msusan Memorial Palace with KJU and other members of the central leadership on the anniversary of late leader Kim Jong Il’s birth in February 2013. In March 2013, Jon delivered the keynote speech at the opening of the Taeso’ngsan General Hospital in Pyongyang. He also joined members of the core leadership when they escorted the Moranbong Band on a visit and performance at KPA Large Combined Unit (taeyonhap pudae) #630. In August 2011, Col. Gen. Jon led a KPA delegation on an official visit to China.
Jon replaces VMar Hyon Chol Hae, a former close military aide to Kim Jong Il. VMar Hyon was appointed 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in April 2012 and was also elected a full member of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau and a member of the Party Central Military Commission. From 2007 to 2012, VMar Hyon was director of the National Defense Commission [NDC] Standing Bureau, which was responsible for logistical and security arrangements for Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un field inspections of KPA units. During the 3rd Party Conference in September 2010, Hyon sat in the gallery to Kim Jong Un’s left. From 1995 to 2007 VMar Hyon was a deputy director of the KPA General Political Department, with responsibility for organization. From 1986 to 1995, Hyon served as Director of the KPA General Logistics Department (under the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces). He was reappointed Director of the GLD in April 2012, replacing Jon Chang Bok. It is not clear if Hyon has been removed from his GLD position, which may have been reclaimed by Jon Chang Bok. It is not clear if Hyon’s removal from office is an actual “purge” or if it is tied to the last week’s dismissal of Gen. Kim Kyok Sik as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.
Hyon is the latest DPRK elite affected by a series of personnel changes in the party, the government and security organizations. In February 2013, Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il replaced Gen. Ri Myong Su as Minister of the People’s Security. Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil replace Choe Pu Il as Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau In March 2013, Paek Kye Ryong replaced Pak Pong Ju as Director of the KWP Light Industry Department and Yun U Chol replaced Kim Ki Ryong as editor of the KWP’s daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun. In April 2013, Pak Pong Ju was re-appointed DPRK Cabinet Premier, replacing Choe Yong Rim, who was elected Honorary Vice President of the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA]. Former President of the State Academy of Social Sciences Tae Hyong Chol was appointed President of Kim Il Sung University, replace Song Ja Rip. Tae vacated his position as SPA Secetary-General and was replaced by Hong Son Ok. April 2013 also found Ri Yong Yong appointed Minister of Coal Industry, replacing Kim Hyong Sik. In May 2013 Choe Hwi appere to have replaced Ri Jae Il as the Senior Deputy of the KWP Propaganda and Agitation [publicity and information] Department.
DPRK state media reported on 1 May (Wednesday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) inspected the Ministry of People’s Security and watched a sports contest between DPRK public health workers, on International Labor Day (May Day). KJU’s last reported public appearance was his attendance at the DPRK premier league men’s football (soccer) finals for the Mangyo’ngdae Prize at Kim Il Sung Stadium. First, Kim Jong Un visited the Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] and inspected Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF] Unit #2219. Attending his visit to the MPS was VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department) and Jang Song Taek (Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] and Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Administration Department).
After arriving at MPS headquarters in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un posed for commemorative photographs with MPS and KPISF personnel. He also paid his respects to statues of Kim Il Sung, the late DPRK President and founder, and Kim Jong Il, the country’s late leader. According to KCNA, KJU said “the erection of their statues at the ministry strikingly demonstrates the unshakable will of all people’s security persons and service personnel of KPISF to eternally hold the peerlessly great men in high esteem and devotedly defend the socialist system, a precious legacy bequeathed by the Generalissimos.” He also “underscored the need for them to eternally hold the Generalissimos in high esteem as the sun of Chuch’e, firmly defend and glorify their undying revolutionary exploits with pure revolutionary conscience and strong sense of obligation.” Kim Jong Un “gave important instructions to tighten people’s security and bolster up the combat capabilities of KPISF in every way” and remarked that “the Ministry of People’s Security and KPISF play a very important role for defending the socialist system, he said, adding that the people’s security persons and service personnel of KPISF should be deeply aware of their heavy yet honorable combat missions.”
KCNA reported that Kim Jong Un “underlined the need to strengthen the people’s security organ and the internal security forces as units defending the policies of the party, strong guardians of socialism, merciless striking forces and reliable protectors of the lives and properties of the people” and said that “the enemies are now afraid of our single-minded unity around the party more than anything else and running the whole gamut of desperate and base moves to destabilize and bring down our society.” KJU said “now that the enemies are working hard to bar our people from trusting and following the party with pure conscience and fixed will and alienate the masses from it, it is important to intensify the struggle to frustrate their moves,” “called for devotedly defending the party, social system and people, decisively foiling the ideological and cultural poisoning and psychological warfare of the enemies and mercilessly wiping out the undesirable and hostile elements who have foolish day dreams” and he “underlined the need for the ministry and the internal security forces to make full combat preparations to annihilate the U.S. imperialists and south Korean puppet group keen to stifle the DPRK and to creditably fulfill their missions and duties in the sacred struggle to provide a firm guarantee by dint of arms and law for the implementation of the party’s line on simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force.” He also noted that “our Chuch’e-oriented socialist country is invincible as the Korean People’s Army and KPISF, the two revolutionary armed forces of the WPK, are firmly defending the security of the country and people.”
Kim Jong Un then inspected KPISF Unit #2219. After his arrival, he presented the unit with a pair of binoculars and an automatic rifle during a short ceremony. He then posed for commemorative photographs with officers and service members of the unit. KJU toured the political education facilities, visited a mess hall, a dormitory, a cultural education classroom and a washroom. KCNA reported that KJU was “satisfied to see good conditions in the bed room, praising the unit for keeping the wash-cum-bath room with a sauna attached neat and clean.” During a visit to a classroom he “he underscored the need to train the soldiers to be strong in idea and faith by intensifying politico-ideological education among them.”
After his tour, he supervised a drill by the unit. According to KCNA, Kim Jong Un “highly appreciated their success in the drill and indicated tasks for bolstering up the combat capabilities of the unit” and “expressed belief that just as the service personnel of KPISF have always did, the soldiers of the unit would display a do-or-die will and matchless courage and thus become iron shields and fierce tigers devotedly defending the party, social system and people in their struggle to decisively foil the enemies’ moves to stifle the DPRK.”
Kim Jong Un’s next visit was his attendance at a sports contest between public health workers. He was joined by his wife Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu) along with Pak Pong Ju (DPRK Cabinet Premier), VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Taek, Kim Kyong Hui (KWP Secretary, KJU’s aunt and head of the Kim Family), Kim Ki Nam (KWP Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Tae Bok (KWP Secretary and Supreme People’s Assembly Chairman), Pak To Chun (KWP Secretary), Kim Yang Gon (KWP Secretary and Director of the United Front Department) along with “other senior officials of the party, the state and the army and workers in the field of public health.” Also in attendance from the central leadership were: Gen. Kim Won Hong (Minister of State Security) Mun Kyong Dok (Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang City [municipal] KWP Committee), Jo Yon Jun (Senior Deputy [1st Vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department), Col. Gen. Kim Chang Sop (Director of the Ministry of State Security Political Bureau), Col. Gen. Ri Pyong Sam (Director of the KPISF Political Bureau), Kim Kyong Ok (Senior Deputy [1st Vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department), Col. Gen. Jo Kyong Chol (Chief of the Military Security Command), Gen. Yun Jong Rin (Chief of the Guard Command) and Gen. Kim Yong Chol (Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff and Chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau).
The public health workers were divided into two teams–the Pot’onggang and Taedonggang teams. KCNA reported of the sports competitions:
Male and female volleyball matches took place first.
The Pothonggang Team defeated its rival in the breath-taking male volleyball match and the Taedonggang Team trounced its rival in the female volleyball match.
Then followed table-tennis matches.
Men’s and women’s singles and doubles and singles of leading officials of the relevant units were played, drawing the attention of the spectators.
The Pothonggang Team won the men’s and women’s singles and men’s doubles while the Taedonggang Team emerged a winner in the women’s doubles.
The Pothonggang Team won the singles of leading officials of the relevant units.
The Pothonggang Team beat its rival 4:1 in the table-tennis matches.
A tug of war took place between the two teams.
The Pothonggang Team won the game.
According to KCNA, Kim Jong Un “clapped his hands whenever the players displayed high technique.” The results of the competitions were announced and prizes given to the participants. At the end of the event, KJU “waved back to the enthusiastic cheers of the players and spectators and congratulated them on the successful games.”
DPRK state media reported on 29 April (Monday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited the Yanggakdo Stadium and attended the men’s football finals for the Mangyo’ngdae Prize at Kim Il Sung Stadium. KJU’s last reported public appearance was his visit to the Haedanghwa Health Complex. KJU’s first visit was to the Yanggakdo Stadium which he ordered to be renovated. Attending the visit was his wife, Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu), along with VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department), Jang Song Taek (Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC]), Gen. Hyon Yong Chol (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Col. Gen. Ri Yong Gil (Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau) and other officials.
According to KCNA Kim Jong Un visited the stadium (originally opened in 1989) “with a plan to radically remodel the stadium as required by the new century.” KJU visited the stadium historical exhibition where he “recollected with deep emotion the undying exploits they performed for the development of the Juche-based physical culture and sports.” KJU then toured the stadium and ordered a series of renovations. He said, “it is the intention of the Workers’ Party of Korea to turn the stadium into a football stadium which can represent stadiums of such type across the country as required by the new century.” KJU also “formed a strong construction unit capable of carrying out the project in a brief span of time.” KJU also remarked that “to develop physical culture and sports is an important work to augment the national power in every way, demonstrate the indomitable spirit and dignity of Military-First (So’ngun) Korea before the world and let all the service personnel and people dynamically step up the building of a thriving socialist nation full of national pride and self-esteem” and he “expressed expectation and belief that the relevant fields would successfully remodel the stadium as a football stadium to be impeccable in any aspect.”
Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Su later attended the men’s football (soccer) finals for the Mangyo’ngdae Prize National Sports Festival at Kim Il Sung Stadium. Also in attendance at the football game were VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Taek, Gen. Hyon Yong Chol, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Kim Ki Nam (Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Tae Bok (KWP Secretary and SPA Chairman), Kim Yang Gon (KWP Secretary and Director of the United Front Department), Kim Yong Il (KWP Secretary and Director of the International Affairs Department), Kim P’yo’ng-hae (KWP Secretary and Director of Cadres’ Affairs), Kwak Pom Gi (KWP Secretary and Director of the Planning and Finance Department), Mun Kyong Dok (Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang City [municipal] KWP Committee), Ju Kyu Chang (Director of the KWP Machine-Building Industry Department), Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il (Minister of the People’s Security), Kim Tong Il (Deputy [vice] Director of the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department) and “members of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, officials of the party and armed forces organs, ministries and national institutions, those in the sports field, sportspersons, fans and Pyongyangites.”
The match was played between two of the DPRK’s premier league teams, Rimyongsu and Amnokgang. KCNA reported the two teams “advanced into the finals after proving successful at the men’s premier soccer league matches. They played good games, displaying high technique they have cultivated in day-to-day trainings” and that “Rimyongsu Team took the initiative from the beginning according to its tactics and made hot attacks.” Rimyongsu led Amnokgang 2-0 in the first half and went onto win the game 2-1. At the end of the match, Kim Jong Un “congratulated the footballers of both teams on playing a good match, expressing great satisfaction with their high technique.”
KJU also met with DPRK athletes who successfully participated in recent international competitions including long-distance runner Kim Kum Ok (who placed first in the 14th Asian Marathon Championship held in Hong Kong on 25 February 2013), wrestler Yang Kyong Il (who placed second in the men’s 55 kg freestyle at the 2013 Asian Wrestling Championship), gymnast Ri Se Gwang (who placed first in the vault event at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Series in Doha in March 2013), wrestler Hwang Ryong Hak (who placed first in the men’s 60 kg freestyle at the 2013 Asian Wrestling Championships), Pak Yong Mi (who placed first in the women’s 48 kg freestyle at the 2013 Asian Wrestling Championships), judoka Hong Kuk Hyon (who placed first in the women’s 73 kg weight class at the Asian Judo Championships of 2013 in Bangkok in April 2013), weightlifter Ri Su Hyon (who won three gold medals in the women’s 44 kg competition at the 2013 International Weightlifting Federation’s Youth World Championships in Tashkent in April 2013), Kwon Yong Gwang (who won three gold medals in the men’s 62 kg competition at 2013 IWF Youth World Championships in Tashkent) and weightlifter Pak Jong Ju (who came in second overall and won two medals in the men’s 50 kg competition at the IWF Youth World Championships in Tashkent), along with “a coach and physical culture and sports guidance officials.”
Kim Jong Un shook hands with the DPRK athletes and, according to KCNA, “highly praised them for proving successful at the recent international games and instilling the conviction of victory and optimism into the service personnel and people of the DPRK dynamically pushing forward the building of a thriving socialist nation despite harsh sanctions and strong pressure of the enemies.” KJU also “expressed his belief that sports persons and coaches would undergo more intensive trainings to consolidate the successes achieved and fully demonstrate the honor of the country with gold medals at international games.” Also attending KJU’s meet-and-greet were DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju, VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Taek, Gen. Hyon Yong Chol, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Tae Bok, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim P’yo’ng-hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il and members of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission.
DPRK state media reported on 27 April (Saturday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited the recently constructed Haedanghwa Health Complex in Pyongyang. KJU’s last reported public appearance was his attendance at a banquet commemorating the 81st anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army [KPA]. He was joined by his wife, Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu). Madame Ri’s last reported public appearance was in late February, when she watched a basketball game and attended a banquet with Dennis Rodman.
Also attending the visit were DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju, VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the KPA General Political Department), Jang Song Taek (Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC]), Gen. Hyon Yong Chol (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Gen. Kim Kyong Sik (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Kim Kyong Hui (KWP Secretary and KJU’s aunt), Kim Ki Nam (KWP Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Tae Bok (KWP Secretary and SPA Chairman), Kang Sok Ju (DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier), Kim Yong Il (KWP Secretary and Director of the International Affairs Department), Kim Yang Gon (KWP Secretary and Director of the United Front Department), Kim P’yo’ng-hae (KWP Secretary and Director of Cadres’ Affairs), Kwak Pom Gi (KWP Secretary and Director of the Planning and Finance Department), Mun Kyong Dok (Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang City [municipal] KWP Committee), Col. Gen. O Il Jong (Director of the KWP Military Affairs Department), Han Kwang Sang (Deputy Director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department) Paek Kye Ryong (Director of the KWP Light Industry Department), Kim Kyong Ok (Senior Deputy [first vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department), Gen. Kim Yong Chol (Chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau and Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff) and Jon Il Chun (Deputy Director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department), among others.
Kim Jong Un began his visit at Haedanghwa Health Complex’s basement garage. According to KCNA, KJU “was pleased to see the completed complex, adding that he appreciated its design and construction after examining the information on it presented to him by the relevant field.” He also visited the store and dining rooms on the complex’s first two levels. He “highly praised the builders for constructing not only the shop but the dining rooms to suit their nature and meet the requirements of formative art,” according to KCNA. KJU visited the restaurant where he remarked that “cooking is a science and art, [he urged] the cookers to steadily improve their skills and display creative ingenuity to serve customers with varieties of tasty and highly nutritive dishes” and had a commemorative photograph taken with the chefs. KJU then went to the second and third levels of the Haedanghwa Health Complex where he visited the public baths, saunas a barber shop, hair salon skin treatment center, workout room, billiard room and other recreational facilities. KCNA reported that Kim Jong Un “personally checked the temperature of water at the bath and learnt about service provided at a face treatment room” and “was pleased to see the wading pool. He was also pleased to go round various saunas built with peculiar building materials such as halite, agate and yellow earth.” KJU also “learnt in detail about what kinds of sports apparatuses are there in the fitness hall and table-tennis hall” and whilst “watching the clock in the shape of billiard balls and billiard table on a wall of the billiard room, he praised the builders for having constructed the room in such a perfect manner that everything there is impeccable.”
KJU then visited the health complex’s e-library and, according to KCNA, said “a relevant field should systematically send various data and videos on cooking to the e-reading room” and he “stressed the need to supply a sufficient quantity of foodstuff necessary for cooking practice so that apprentices may acquire workable knowledge, saying that theory is not enough to acquire cooking skill.” He also visited a coffee shop on the complex’s fifth floor. According to KCNA Kim Jong Un said that “it is the firm resolution of the WPK to enable the Korean people, the best in the world, to fully enjoy wealth and glory under socialism, without tightening their belts again, he noted, underlining the need to build more modern service centers such as the Haedanghwa Health Complex impeccable in any aspect.”