updated 5 May 2014
Choe Ryong Hae (Choe Ryo’ng-hae) is the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and Director of Workers’ Organizations. From 2012 to 2014 he served as the Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department. Choe is a member of the 2nd revolutionary generation and knew the late supreme leader Kim Jong Il for over 50 years. Choe has numerous political and social relationships with numerous DPRK elites and has a close relationship with Kim Kyong Hui and Jang Song Taek. During the 1980s and 1990s Choe had a leading role in consolidating Kim Jong Il’s succession and building his political support and reported accomplishments as head of the Kim Il Sung Youth League.
Choe Ryong Hae was born in Sincho’n County, North Hwanghae Province in 1950. He is the son of Choe Hyo’n (1909-1982) who served as Minister of People’s Armed Forces and NDC Vice Chairman in the 1970s and was a member (with Kim Il Sung) in the 88th Brigade in the late 1930s. Choe attended Mangyo’ngdae Revolutionary School and Kim Il Sung University. He worked as a party instructor at KISU after graduation.
In 1980 Choe was appointed as director of cultural exchange programs for the Kim Il Sung Youth League [KISYL]. In 1981 he was elected KISYL Vice Chairman. In these positions he traveled to China, Russia, Japan, Libya and Greece. In 1986 Choe was elected Chairman of the KISYL and to full membership on the Party Central Committee (CC KWP). He was also elected a deputy of the 9th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA], where served he on the Presidium.
In 1990 he was appointed Chairman of the DPRK Soccer (Football) Association and in 1991 Chairman of the DPRK Youth Taekwando Association. In the early 1990s the youth organizations were consolidated, and its administrative hierarchy altered. Choe Ryong Hae became the KISYL Central Committee 1st Secretary. He was dismissed from this position in 1998, officially for health reasons; however Choe was involved in unsanctioned sales of scrap metals to China (in his capacity as head of a KIS Youth League trading company). Choe served as a Deputy Director of the CC KWP General Affairs Department. From 2006 to 2010 he served as the Chief Secretary of the North Hwanghae KWP Provincial Committee.
Following Jang Song Taek’s election as NDC Vice Chairman in June 2010, three of Pyongyang’s administrative districts were rezoned as counties of North Hwanghae. Choe traveled to China with Jang and Kim Jong Il in August 2010.
On 28 September 2010, Ch’oe was given the rank KPA General in a military promotions order issued to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party. At the 3rd Party Conference he became a member of the CC KWP Secretariat and an alternate member of the CC KWP Political Bureau and member of the Central Military Commission. In April 2012 Choe was promoted to Vice Marshal. During the 4th Party Conference on 11 April 2012 Choe was elected to membership on the Political Bureau Presidium and Vice Chairman of the Party Central Military Commission. After the 4th Party Conference, DPRK media publicized that Choe had been appointed director of the KPA General Political Bureau, a position vacated by the November 2010 death of Jo Myong Rok (Cho Myo’ng-rok). At the 5th session of the 12th SPA, Choe was elected a member of the National Defense Commission.
From 2012 to 2014 Choe was a top member of the DPRK leadership. He led a number of construction projects built by KPA personnel. He also conducted a number of reported and unpublicized on-site inspections at KPA units and construction sites. Following the purge and execution of Jang Song Taek in December 2013, Choe Ryong Hae was widely believed to have replaced Jang as the DPRK’s unofficial #2 official. In February 2014, Choe was interrogated by the Ministry of State Security and his office at the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces searched. He reappeared three weeks after these incidents at a field inspection by Kim Jong Un of a KPA Air Force unit. On April 9, 2014, Choe was elected Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission. Nearly three weeks later he was removed from office as Director of the KPA General Political Department, on April 26. Choe subsequently appeared at a ceremony opening a renovated children’s camp in Kangwo’n Province, identified as a KWP Secretary.
Ch’oe Ryong-hae (Choe Ryong Hae)
CC KWP Secretary
Alternate Member, CC KWP Political Bureau
Member, Central Military Commission [CMC]
Member, Party Central Committee
Deputy, 12th Supreme People’s Assembly
Mangyongdae Revolutionary School
Kim Il-so’ng University (Political Economy Department)
1980: Director Guidance Bureau for Cultural Exchange, Kim Il-so’ng Youth League
1981: Elected a Vice Chairman of the KISYL
1986: Elected Chairman of the Kim Il-so’ng Youth League
Elected Deputy and Presidium Member of the 8th SPA
Elected full membership, Party Central Committee
1990: Deputy, 9th SPA
Elected, Member, Presidium, SPA
Chair, DPRK Soccer Association
1991: Chairman, Taekwando Association of Korean Youth
1993: Awarded, Hero of the Republic
Appointed, 1st Secretary of the KISYL
1998: Removed as 1st Secretary of the KISYL Central Committee
2006: Appointed, Chief Secretary, North Hwanghae KWP Provincial Committee
2009: Delegate, 12th SPA
2010: KPA General
CC KWP Secretary
Member, Party Central Military Commission
Alternate Member, CC KWP Political Bureau
2012: Promoted, Vice Marshal
Director, KPA General Political Bureau
Member, CC KWP Political Bureau Presidium
Vice Chairman, Party Central Military Commission
Member, National Defense Commission
“Pyongyang now more than one-third smaller; food shortage suspected,” Asahi Shimbun 17 July 2010 (http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201007160470.html): Kangnam, Chunghwa and Sangwon Counties and Sungho District which were located in Pyangyang’s east and south were identified by Korean Central Broadcasting Station as being part of North Hwanghae Province.
“Narrative Biographies of DPRK Figures” Seoul Singdong-a (Seoul: January 1995) pp 210-278
Yonhap News Agency. North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY:ME Sharpe, 2003) pp. 767-8