Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
DPRK state media reported on 16 July (Monday) that VMar Ri Yong Ho (Ri Yo’ng-ho; Yi Yong-ho), chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff was “relieved from all his posts in the DPRK” during a meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Committee’s Political Bureau held on 15 July (Sunday). According to KCNA, the Political Bureau “decided to relieve Ri Yong Ho of all of his posts including member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea for his illness.” One of Ri’s last reported public appearances was visiting Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun on 8 July 2012, along with Kim Jong Un and other senior KPA officials. He also visited the Ch’angjon Street Apartment Complex on 6 July 2012, along with other senior party, government and military officials.
“Illness” can be a party center euphemism for insubordination or corruption (and who is to say VMar Ri did not have his finger in a poisoned pie?). Ri’s public appearances after mid-2011 had become infrequent. At the 5th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Ri seemed to have been passed over when new members of the National Defense Commission [NDC] were elected. However, if he was ill there would have been little point in appointing him to another position. While many DPRK elites can appear green around the gills (although not as frequently in the KJU era), a cursory review of images of VMar Ri from the last three years do show man in declining health.
A revised biography on VMar Ri Yong Ho is available here.