Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) visited the casket bier of Kim Jong Il at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace one again on 24 December (Saturday). He was joined by other members of the central leadership. Once again, standing behind him, was his younger sister Kim Yo Jong (Kim Yo’-cho’ng). Jong Un’s visit while the Korean Workers’ Party’s newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published an editorial which called for his assumption of the position of KPA Supreme Commander.
The KPA Supreme Commander (Choson inmin’gun ch’oego) serves as the leading official (i.e. commander-in-chief) of the Korean People’s Army [KPA]. The supreme commander can declare a state of emergency or war and issue instructions and commands in support of such a declaration. During a state of emergency or war, the Supreme Commander commands all of the DPRK’s ground, naval, air and special forces. The supreme commander also establishes direct authority and command over the KPA’s other security organizations (typically controlled by the party) such as the Ministry of State Security, Ministry of People’s Security, the Guard Command and Pyongyang Defense Command as well as the country’s civilian reserve forces who serve in the Reserve Military Training Units [RMTU] and Worker-Peasants’ Red Guard [WPRG].
The KPA Supreme Commander also can promote officers with the rank of general or higher, as well as those holding the position of division vice-commander or higher. In addition to that the KPA Supreme Command directs and guides the winter and spring training cycles of the KPA. The supreme command issues orders through the 10th office of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau; during contingency or war, the supreme commander bypasses the formal chain of command and issues orders and instructions through the Operations Bureau’s 10th office. The position is intended to bypass the collective control over security organizations by the Korean Workers’ Party and allow the supreme commander to exercise single guidance (tanil chido)
The position was created after the outbreak of the Korean (Fatherland Liberation) War. It was an emergency mechanism that gave Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng) with full control and command of DPRK armed forces as the war unfolded. From 1972 to 1991 Kim Il Sung served as KPA Supreme Commander concurrently to being DPRK President (i.e. head of state). On 24 December 1991 Kim Jong Il was elected KPA Supreme Commander during the 19th plenary meeting of the 6th KWP Central Committee. The day after his election, on 25 December, the KPA General Political Department (also known as the General Political Bureau) convened a meeting of KPA political officers and cadres. At the end of the meeting, they swore a loyalty oath to Kim Il Sung and KJI, who were in attendance.
It is not clear that Kim Jong Un has been elected KPA Supreme Commander. In the weeks prior to KJI’s demise, Jong Un accompanied his father on several KPA field inspections. On most all of these inspections the Kims were reported by DPRK media to have been accompanied by “staff members of the KPA Supreme Command.” As Vice Chairman of the Party Central Military Commission, KJU is the leading official of the body which would propose his nomination to the Party Central Committee. After Kim Il Sung died in 1994, Kim Jong Il convened two meetings of the Political Bureau. It is highly likely that the Central Committee will convene a meeting a few days to several weeks after the funeral and appoint KJU supreme commander.