North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Yong Chol Visits Laos

Kim Yong Chol (background, left) meets with Lao People's Revolutionary Party General-Secretary

Kim Yong Chol (background, left) meets with Lao People’s Revolutionary Party General-Secretary Bounnhang Vorachith (background, right) at the LPRP Central Committee Building in Vientiane on February 11, 2016 (Photo: KCNA).

Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Secretary Kim Yong Chol (Kim Yo’ng-ch’o’l) and a WPK delegation visited Laos during February 11 (Thursday) and February 12 (Friday).  The WPK delegation was sent as personal representatives of Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) to congratulate the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party [LPRP] on the convocation of its 10th Party Congress.

Kim Yong Chol and the WPK delegation departed Pyongyang on February 11.  On Thursday, Kim and the WPK delegation met with Bounnhang Vorachith at the LPRP Central Committee Building in Vientiane, LPRP General Secretary.  According to KPL, Vorachith thanked the WPK delegation for its “congratulations on the success of the Tenth Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.  This visit showed the long history of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.”  Vorachith “thanked the party, government and people of the DPRK for giving its support to Laos during its war of independence” and “confirmed that the LPRP will intensify the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries out for the interests of the people of Laos and the DPRK, as well as for regional and global development.”  According to KPL, Kim Yong Chol congratulated Bounnhang Vorachith “on the success of the 10th Party Congress” and remarked that “it was an important event in the LPRP’s policies for the development of the country.”

WPK Secretary Kim Yong Chol meets with Lao Predient Choummaly Sayasone in Vientiane on February 12, 2016 (Photo: KPL video screengrab).

WPK Secretary Kim Yong Chol meets with Lao Predient Choummaly Sayasone in Vientiane on February 12, 2016 (Photo: KPL video screen grab).

According to KCNA, Bounnhang Vorachith said the visit represented “a vivid expression of support for the LPRP that supreme leader Kim Jong Un personally sent a congratulatory delegation as regards the successful 10th Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and the election of the general secretary of the Party Central Committee.  It is a fruition of the energetic leadership of Kim Jong Un that WPK has made steady progress in bolstering up capabilities for self-defense and stepping up economic construction and the improvement of the people’s living standard.” Vorachith also “wished Kim Jong Un good health and big success in the work for leading the building of a thriving socialist nation” and expressed “his will to eternally boost the friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties and countries.”

WPK Secretary Kim Yong Chol (background, left) meets with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone (background, right) in Vientiane on February 12, 2016 (Photo: KPL video screen grab).

WPK Secretary Kim Yong Chol (background, left) meets with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone (background, right) in Vientiane on February 12, 2016 (Photo: KPL video screen grab).

On February 12, Kim Yong Chol and the WPK delegation met with  Lao President Choummaly Sayasone.  According to KCNA, President Sayasone said that Jong Un’s sending of the WPK delegation greatly inspired, the “Lao party, government and people.  The friendly and cooperative relations provided by the preceding leaders of the two countries will remain unchanged forever.  Laos will always support the just cause of the Korean people.”  Sayasone also “expressed conviction that the cause of building a thriving socialist nation will be surely realized than to Kim Jong Un who is confidently carrying forward the cause of President Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng) and leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il.”  According to KPL, Kim Yong Chol thanked Saysone “for warmly receiving him and the delegation” and he was “confident that friendly relations and cooperation between the two parties, the governments and the Lao and DPRK people will continue and frequently grow.”

Kim Yong Chol (left) poses for a commemorative photo with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone (right) in Vientiane on February 12, 2016 (Photo: KPL).

Kim Yong Chol (left) poses for a commemorative photo with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone (right) in Vientiane on February 12, 2016 (Photo: KPL).

Also, on February 12, The WPK delegation also met with LPRP Secretary and Propaganda and Training Affairs Director Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune who presented a gift to Jong Un, which was received by Kim Yong Chol.   During their stay Kim Yong Chol and the deleation also toured Kaysone Phomvihane Memorial Museum and the Pha That Luang.  The WPK delegation returned to Pyongyang on Friday.

Lao President Choummaly Sayasone presents gifts to Kim Jong Il during a September 2011 visit (Photo: NK Leadership Watch file photo/KCNA).

Lao President Choummaly Sayasone presents gifts to late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il during a September 2011 visit (Photo: NK Leadership Watch file photo/KCNA).

Lao President Choummaly Sayasone was the first foreign leader to publicly meet Jong Un after his succession was formalized.  The meeting took place in late September 2011, two weeks before Kim Jong Un assumed the title of Korean People’s Army [KPA] Supreme Commander.   Kim Yong Chol’s selection as Kim Jong Un’s personal emissary reveals that, like his predecessor Kim Yang Gon, his public role and policy portfolio will not be restricted to inter-Korean relations.  Because Kim Yong Chol visited Laos in the capacity of a personal emissary, there is a very good chance he might be used to travel outside the DPRK and engage in interactions in other countries with foreign leadership.  Interestingly, Kim departed the DPRK on the same day that the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which is now under his management, issued a statement outlining the procedure of ROK businesses’ and citizens’ withdrawal from the Kaeso’ng Industrial Zone.

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