North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Where is VMAR Kim Yong-chun?

VMAR Kim Yong-chun (third from left) during one of his last known public appearances in November 2009 (Photo: KCNA).

Yonhap reports that VMAR Kim Yong-chun, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces and Vice Chair of the National Defense Commission did not appear on the rostrum for a meeting at the 25 April House of Culture that commemorated Kim Jong-il’s eighteenth anniversary assuming the post of KPA Supreme Commander.  Yonhap notes that VMAR Kim’s last appearance was around 29 November when he was part of General-Secretary Kim’s travel party during an inspection tour of KPA units and farms. VMAR Kim is a former Chief of the KPA General Staff and concurrent member of the NDC and the KWP Central Military Committee.  He was appointed Vice Chair of the NDC in 2007, and in February of this year he replaced VMAR Kim Il-chol as Minister of the PAF.  VMAR is seventy-three (73) years old and diabetic.

VMAR Kim’s absence from an important DPRK event is due to his health and not politics.  He is very close to Kim Jong-il and influential on matters relating to military planning and foreign affairs.  He is also believed to be a supporter of the Kim Jong-un hereditary succession.  Yonhap reports that VMAR Kim is going blind and deaf from diabetes, and had medical treatment at a PLA hospital in China in June.  Substituting for VMAR Kim at the commemorative event was NDC Vice Chair and GPB Director, VMAR Jo Myong-rok.  VMAR Jo is in poor health himself, having renal failure.

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December 2009