Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
DPRK state media reports on 7 March (Friday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) attended a drill of Korean People’s Army [KPA] Air and Anti-Air Force Unit #2620. Also in attendance were VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the KPA General Political Department), Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Lt. Gen. Yun Tong Hyon (Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (Commander of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force), Lt. Gen. Pak Jong Chon (Staff, KPA Supreme Command), Han Kwang Sang (Director of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Finance and Accounting Department), Hwang Pyong So (Deputy [vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department), Hong Yong Chil (Deputy [vice] Director of the KWP Machine-Building Industry Department) and Ma Won Chun (Deputy [vice] Director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department). KJU’s last observed appearance was his visit to the Pyongyang Weak Current Apparatus Factory.
KCNA reported that when the drill commenced “airwomen fully demonstrated their aeronautics cultivated through their drive for carrying out the training order given by the Supreme Commander.” Kim Jong Un noted that “all those who participated in the drill are women but they successfully conducted flight for combat despite bad weather” and “praised them for being very high in ideological and moral spirit and acquiring admirable flight skill as intended by the party.” He met with the KPA airwomen to express “great satisfaction over the fact that they are prepared to be able airwomen and congratulated them on their success in the drill.” He issued instructions for “further intensifying the flight training” and posed for a commemorative photograph with the drill’s participants. During the photo-op he praised “them for having made full preparations to go into action.”
After the drill, Kim Jong Un he inspected KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Unit #2620. He visited the a revolutionary history classroom where, according to KCNA, he called that “President Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng) formed a unit with airwomen and leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) showed deep loving care and paid deep attention to it.” He said the unit “performed shining feats along with the development of the nation’s air force” and he “showed such warm loving care as making sure that ‘Song of Woman Pilot’ is created and sung” and noted “that it is pride of the WPK to have airwomen who have stoutly grown up under the wise leadership of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.” He toured the unit’s quarters, a flight training room, mess, food storage and “various other places to take deep care of airwomen and service personnel’s living.” He also met with a pilot couple where he learned “in detail about their service and life” and opined it was “very admirable [for] the couple flying in the sky to defend the country, regarding state affair[s] more important than family affair [s].” He said they “are patriots to be proud of in the world” and posed for a commemorative photo. According to KCNA, Kim Jong Un “expressed great expectation and conviction that the service personnel of the unit would perform shining military feats in the struggle to protect the socialist country.”
Kim Jong Un’s visit to KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Unit #2620 marked the first reported and observed appearance of VMar Choe Ryong Hae since 16 February. According to FRNK and other ROK media, VMar Choe was arrested and detained by the Military Security Command on 21 February. VMar Choe’s appearance at the flight drills and KJU’s inspection of the unit does not indicate that he was not arrested or detained by the MSC. In the past, senior cadres have been held by the security services for interrogation (intended to serve as a warning to the cadre and his cohort) then eventually returned to their former positions. There is an even chance that Kim Jong Un, like his father and grandfather in previous cases, exercised magnanimity with VMar Choe.