General O Kuk Ryol is a Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission. He is also a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP), and has been a delegate (deputy) to the SPA since 1967. Gen. O is the country’s primary manager of intelligence training and operations in East Asia, and is currently believed to head the NDC Reconnaissance Bureau.
O Kuk Ryol was born in Jilin Province, PRC, in 1931. He is either the son or nephew of North Korean hero O Jung Hup. O’s ties to the Kim Family go back to the 1930s. After the war, O was one of the war orphans looked after by KIS first wife (and KJI’s mother), Kim Jong Suk. O attended the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School and Kim Il Sung University. O also received military education in Russia at the Soviet Air Force Academy and Frunze Military Academy (currently known as the Combined Arms Academy).
O began his official career in 1964 in the Korean People’s Army Air Force, as an administrator of the Kim Chaek Air Force Academy. He was first elected a deputy (delegate) to the 4th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1967. He was promoted to Major General (sojang) in 1968 and became commander of the Air Force. O Kuk Ryol was elected to full membership to the CC KWP at the 5th Party Congress in 1970. He officially traveled outside the DPRK three times in the 1970s, including leading a delegation to China in 1971. In October, 1977, O was appointed Deputy Chief of the KPA General Staff. He was promoted to Chief of the General Staff in September, 1979.
In the 1970’s O Kuk Ryol was one of the principal facilitators of establishing KJI’s monolithic ideological guidance system in the Korean People’s Army. O Kuk Ryol was promoted to Colonel-General (sangjang) in September 1980. At the KWP 6th Party Congress in October, 1980, Gen. O was elected a member of the Political Bureau (Politburo) and member of the CC KWP Central Military Committee. In 1982 O gave a keynote speech at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School.
He was promoted to General (taejang) in April, 1985. In the 1980’s he was responsible for the creation of the Mirim Electronic Warfare Institute (Automated Warfare Institute), the country’s premier training institution in electronic (cyber) warfare. He was removed as Chief of the General Staff in 1988, as well as expelled from the CC KWP Political Bureau and suspended from the Central Military Committee, due to policy and personnel disputes with then-Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, O Jin U. Gen. O was sent on a six-month re-education program at the Kim Il Sung Higher Party School.
O returned to the power center as department director of the CC KWP Civil Defense Department in late 1988. He was responsible for managing personnel shuffles (purges and promotions) among KPA general-grade officers from 1991 to 1993. Around 1992 or 1993, O Kuk Ryol was appointed to his current position as department director of the CC KWP Operations Department.
In February, 2009, O Kuk Ryol was appointed Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission. According to one report, he has also established a foreign trading corporation. Gen. O has presided over the consolidation of much of the DPRK’s foreign intelligence collection (focused primarily on the ROK and Japan), operations, education and training into the NDC Reconnaissance General Bureau. Gen. O manages the NDC RGB in coordination with Lt. Gen. Kim Yong Chol. There are rumors that Gen. O hs had difficulty working with and managing Kim.
Gen. O Kuk Ryol is highly intelligent, and a respected military commander. He is one of Kim Jong Il’s primary intelligence managers and advisers on military strategy and electronic warfare. He speaks English, Russian and Chinese.
Gen. O is said “to be a commanding officer who is neat and tidy in character and behavior, and has a careful planning ability and propulsive force to push ahead with what should be done.” Gen. O is neither an active nor prolific participant in the social and party culture of North Korean elites, and is reputed to take care of his health as an avid walker.
O Kuk Ryol
National Defense Commission (NDC), Vice Chairman
Member, Party Central Committee (CC KWP)
1964: Instructor and administrator Korean People’s Air Force Academy
1967: Deputy, 4th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA)
1968: Promoted, Major General
1970: Elected, Member, CC KWP
1972: Deputy, 5th SPA
1977: Appointed, Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff
Deputy, 6th SPA
1979: Elected, Alternate Member, CC KWP Political Bureau
Appointed, Chief of the KPA General Staff
1980: Promoted to Colonel-General
Elected, Member, CC KWP Political Bureau
Elected, Member, Central Military Committee (CMC)
1982: Awarded, Order of Kim ll Sung
Deputy, 7th SPA
1985: Promoted, General
1986: Deputy, 8th SPA
1988: Dismissed from CMC, CC KWP PB
1989: Director, CC KWP Civil Defense Department
1990: 9th SPA
1992: Director, CC KWP Operations Department
1994: Member, Kim Il Sung Funeral Committee
1995: Member, O Jin U Funeral Committee
1998: Deputy, 10th SPA
2003: Deputy, 11th SPA
2009: NDC Vice Chairman
Deputy, 12th SPA
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“Narrative Biographies of DPRK Figures,” Seoul SINDONG-A January 1995, (Supplement) pp 210-278
“O Kuk Ryol Accompanies Kim Jong-il to view KPA live fire exercises” Northeast Asia Matters: the Korean Peninsula (
Suh, Dae-sook. Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader pp. 42, 46 and 286
Yonhap News Agency. The North Korea Handbook Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2003 p.867