North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KWP Provincial Secretary and former Public Security Minister Dies

Ri Chol-bong is second from the left in this photo on Kim Jong-il's visit to the Munchon Secondary School in August 2009 (Photo: KCNA).

A successor is certainly needed on the Kangwon Provincial KWP Committee.

On 26 December, KCNA published the obituary of Kangwon KWP Provincial Chief Secretary Ri Chol-bong.  Mr. Ri was a KPA veteran and “held the posts of minister and director of the political bureau of the people’s security organ, vice department director of the WPK Central Committee, minister of City Administration and director of the Political Bureau of the Ministry of Railways from early in the 1980s.”  He was also a member of the Budget Committee at the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly and former chairman of the Korea-Iran Friendship Association.  Like many senior KWP cadres, Mr. Ri had a lost period in the late 1990’s.  In October 2006,  Ri Chol-bong was appointed Chief KWP Secretary in Kangwon Province.  KCNA also reports that Ri Chol-bong “died in a traffic accident at the age of 78 on December 25.”  Kim Jong-il had his customary floral wreath delivered with “his deep condolences.”

Ri Chol-bong first appeared in Kim Jong-il’s entourage around 6 January, 2009,  during General-Secretary Kim’s visit to the Wonsan Youth Power Station.  In total, Mr. Ri escorted Kim Jong-il seven (7) times, all in 2009.

4 comments on “KWP Provincial Secretary and former Public Security Minister Dies

  1. Nicolas Levi

    “traffic accident” impossible and a classical death for politicians in NK. Impossible because there are hardly no cars in this country.

    • nkleadershipwatch

      People will draw their own conclusions about whether Mr. Ri was really involved in an auto accident. Provincial KWP Secretaries were gathered in Pyongyang at the time Ri Chol-bong passed away, so perhaps it was an accident or the DPRK media is using “traffic accident” to cover up embarassing circumstances around his death.

  2. RPL

    In your opinion, does this change anything?

    • nkleadershipwatch

      I don’t that it changes anything for Kangwon Province, or whether Ri Chol-bong’s death represents a major change to the DPRK leadership. Like many older generation cadres, Mr. Ri had fallen in and out of favor and his 2006 appointment as Party Secretary was a sign of his career’s restoration.

      If Pak Jong-nam (Ri Chol-bong’s second on the Kangwon Provincial Committee) is not selected as Mr. Ri’s replacement, it will be interesting to see who is assigned. If a succession campaign is truly under way, and Kim Jong-un is involved in personnel decisions, this could be an opportunity to promote a younger cadre or a supporter. This may also be an opportunity for Kim Jong-il to install an older cadre, possibly restoring an individual who fell out of favor some years ago. A previously known Party entity’s endorsement would give the succession better propaganda credibility. Once the succession is announced, Party Secretaries in the provinces will be compelled to read breathless exaltations supporting the succession.

      Another note about Kangwon Province; there was a media report that propaganda about the succession says Kim Jong-un spent his childhood in Kangwon’s provincial capital city of Wonsan, and that he identifies it as his hometown. If this is the case, Pyongyang will pay special attention to the appointment of a replacement Provincial Secretary.

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January 2010