North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Vice Marshal Jang Song-u (1935-2009)


On 25 August, 2009, the North Korean press reported the death of Vice Marshal Jang Song-u.  At the time of his death it was believed that VMAR Jang was department director of the Civil Defense Department of the CC Korean Workers’ Party.  Jang Song-u is the eldest brother of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and Director of the Administration Department of the CCKWP.   For over thirty years, VMAR Jang worked in various departments tasked with regime security

VMAR Jang first entered the North Korean elite in 1971 when he was appointed as a deputy director of the powerful Organization Guidance Department of the CCKWP.   He was promoted to Major General of the KPA in 1977 and became a member of the KWP Central Committee in 1980. He was a Director-General in the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces and political commander in the State Security Department.  In 1989 he became Senior Deputy Director of the Ministry of Public Security and in 1994 appointed commanding officer of the 3rd Army Corps.

When Kim Jong-il officially succeed his father in 1997, Jang Song-u became the political commander of the Guard Command, a unit under Kim Jong-il’s direct control and tasked with his personal security (and that of other North Korean elites).   In April 2002 (during a comemoration of the late Kim Il-sung’s 90th birthday) Jang Song-u was promoted to Vice Marshal of the Korean People’s Army.  VMAR Jang continued in the Guard Command until around 2005 when he was seemingly demoted to department director of the Civil Defense Department of the CCKWP, but seemed to maintain a military adviser function in Kim Jong-il’s Personal Secretariat.  VMAR Jang’s last appearance in the North Korean press was his participation in elections for the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly in March 2009.

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September 2009