North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Pyon Yong Rip (1929-2016)

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Former Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Secretary-General Pyon Yong Rip (Pyo’n Yo’ng-rip) died at the age of 87 on November 13, 2016, in Pyongyang.  Pyon was a former member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Political Bureau and a senior official involved in education and science, holding positions as Chairman of the Education Commission and President of the State Academy of Sciences.

Pyon Yong Rip began his career as a physics professor at Kim Il Sung University.  In 1968 he was appointed Director-General of the University Guidance Bureau under the Ministry of Higher Education.  Pyon returned to the faculty of KIS University during the 1970s and became head of the Physics Department.  In July 1984 he was appointed Director-General of the DPRK Education Commission’s Science and Biotechnology Bureau.  Pyon was appointed Chairman of the Education Commission on December 29, 1986 during the opening session of the 8th Supreme People’s Assembly.  During July 1987, he became chairman of the DPRK-Bulgaria Friendship Association.  Pyon was elected a member of the 6th WPK Central Committee during its 13th plenary meeting (plenum) held during March 7 to March 11, 1988.  He traveled to Syria in May 1988 as a personal envoy of the late DPRK President and founder Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng).

In 1989, Pyon was removed from office as Chairman of the Education Commission and as a member of the WPK Central Committee.  His career revived four years later when he was appointed Vice President of the State Academy of Sciences in August 1993.  In November 1993 he became the Chairman of the DPRK-Belarus Friendship Association.  He was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the WPK Central Committee in February 1995.  In May 1999, Pyon was appointed Minister of Education and during July the same year he became Chairman of the DPRK-Cuba Solidarity Committee.  Pyon visited the PRC in November 2002 and met with then-PRC Vice Premier Li Lanqing.

Pyon Yong Rip was appointed President of the State Academy of Sciences during June 2003, replacing Ri Kwang Ho who went onto to become director of the WPK Science Education Department.  Pyon was replaced as Education Minister by Kim Yong Jin, who is currently DPRK Vice Premier.  Pyon was elected a deputy to the 11th Supreme People’s Assembly and was elected a member of the SPA Presidium.  Pyon also was appointed, concurrently, as Chairman of the General Federation of Science and Technology Central Committee.   In January 2006, Pyon contributed an essay to Minju Joson about the role of scientists in DPRK society.  He wrote in part:

Scientists and technicians should devote all their wisdom and passion to the scientific research work aimed at rapidly developing information technology, nanotechnology, bioengineering – which are essential and basic technologies – and the technology engineering and fundamental science of the important sectors.

Scientists and technicians’ high scientific and technological competence is an important ability to enhance their responsibility and role and to fiercely kindle the flame of the scientific revolution and the technological revolution.

Scientists and technicians should vigorously wage a struggle to enhance their scientific and technological capabilities with an ambition and aspiration and an unyielding fighting spirit to occupy the fortress of modern science and technology in the shortest period of time.

When they equip themselves with ardent loyalty and patriotism and with high scientific and technological capability, our scientists and technicians can flawlessly and excellently resolve any scientific and technological problems and can actually contribute to the fatherland’s prosperity and development and to the promotion of the people’s welfare.

All of the scientists and technicians should possess advanced scientific and technological knowledge and should prepare themselves as experts completely familiar with the science and technology of their sectors and as able scientific and technological functionaries for the party and the fatherland by persistently learning and learning, and they should continue to reliably resolve scientific and technological problems through energetic research and with proficient competence and scientific conscience.

If the role of scientists and technicians is to be enhanced, the work with scientists and technicians should be improved and intensified.

When all of the functionaries, including the functionaries of the power organs, respect scientists and technicians and actively assist their scientific research work and when they highly regard them with a point of view and attitude that they place importance on science and technology not in words but in acts, excellent results can be achieved in the work for the development of the country’s science and technology, and the flame of the scientific revolution and the technological revolution can be fiercely stirred up.

Pyon would also opine about DPRK film, after the release of the feature Diary of a Schoolgirl.  Pyon told Rodong Sinmun:

The art movie, “Diary of a Girl Student,” has shown as a synthesis in an art movie a guideline that should be tightly grasped not only by the movie art sector but also by the science and technology sector.  Through the movie, we have realized deep in our hearts our general’s noble determination and intent aimed at remarkably developing science and technology.

This movie is indeed a powerful driving force that inspires people to do everything and to create everything in a novel manner and in our own style, and it is a close companion of struggle and life that encourages people to move forward along the road of creation and innovation in line with the demands of the new century.

By every valuable scene and every melody of the movie, everyone keenly realizes the appeal of the time for the creation of something new and for moving toward the world and a starting signal given by the military-first fatherland.

The ones who should respond to the military-first fatherland’s starting signal — which rouses us to a leap forward — before other people do are, I believe, precisely our scientists and technicians.

I believe that our general’s noble intent is that a phase of turnaround should be opened up in the scientific research sector as well in the military-first era.  We will achieve great leaps forward and great innovations in the science and technology sector with pride and confidence that we hold in high esteem the general — who is an unrivaled great man and heaven-sent, brilliant commander — as a parent.

We will fully play our role as forerunners in exploring the brilliant future of a powerful state by emulating the lofty ideological and spiritual world of the heroine of the movie and by devoting ourselves on the road of bringing the respected and beloved general’s ideology of placing importance on science into full bloom as a reality.

In August 2006, Pyon led a DPRK delegation on a visit to Brazil to attend the general conference of the Academy of Science in the Developing World and a G-77 ministerial summit.  Pyon was a member of the state funeral committee organized after the June 2007 death of Ri In Mo, an unconverted long-term war prisoner who repatriated to the DPRK in 1993.  Pyon Yong Rip was also a member of the state funeral committee organized for former DPRK Vice President Pak Song Chol, following his October 2008 death.

Pyon was re-elected a deputy to the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly in March 2009.  At the SPA’s opening session he was re-elected a member of the SPA Presidium.  Due to the State Academy of Science’s links to the DPRK’s WMD program, through international education and science exchange agreements, Pyon was subjected to a travel ban in the European Union and would be subject to other sanctions.

In the September 26, 2009 edition of Rodong Sinmun, Jang Chol penned an article in which he announced that he had been appointed President of the State Academy of Sciences, replacing Pyon.  This announcement was an unusual break from the protocol and practice of announcing senior personnel matters in state media.  Pyon had been appointed Secretary-General of the SPA Presidium during July 2009, according to DPRK records.  He was not publicly identified having that position until December 29, 2009, when he attended an award ceremony in Pyongyang held for functionaries, workers and technicians at the So’ngjn Steel Complex.

During the 3rd Party Conference, on September 28, 2010, Pyon Yong Rip was elected a member of the WPK Central Committee and a member of the WPK Political Bureau.  In June 2011, Pyon was a member of the central election guidance committee organized for local elections (i.e. local people’s assemblies, etc).  Pyon was a member of Kim Jong Il’s Funeral Committee and a prominent mourner during the funeral services.  He effectively retired from public life in early 2012.

Pyon Yong Rip (tagged) bows during one of the funeral viewings held after KJI's death (Photo: NK Leadership Watch file photo).

Pyon Yong Rip (tagged) bows during one of the funeral viewings held after KJI’s death (Photo: NK Leadership Watch file photo).

Pyon Yong Rip was born September 1929 in South Hwanghae Province.  He joined the Korean People’s Army [KPA] in 1950 and servied in the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War).  He received his degrees in physics from Kim Il Sung University.  Pyon was married and had at least two children.  He was said to have a very patient and kindly personality.  Pyon has close social and professional ties with current WPK Vice Chairman and SPA Speaker (chairman) Choe Thae Bok (Choe T’ae-pok), DPRK Vice Premier Kim Yong Jin (Kim Yo’ng-chin), Honorary SPA Presidium Vice President and former DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim (Ch’oe Yo’ng-rim) and the late WPK Secretary and National Defense Commission Member Jon Pyong Ho (1926-2014).

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