Archive | leadership succession RSS feed for this section

KJI Youngest Daughter Working as Events Manager for KJU?

22 Jul
Kim Yo Jong (L) attending her older brother Kim Jong Un's visit to the KPA Equestrian company (currently known as the Mirim Riding Club) in November 2012.  In the image on the right she is seen riding along side her aunt, KWP Secretary Kim Kyong Hui (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Yo Jong (L) attending her older brother Kim Jong Un’s visit to the KPA Equestrian company (currently known as the Mirim Riding Club) in November 2012. In the image on the right she is seen riding along side her aunt, KWP Secretary Kim Kyong Hui (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Kim Yo Jong (Kim Yo’-cho’ng), the 26 year old sister of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n), is working in the National Defense Commission [NDC] as her older brother’s trip director.  According to several ROK media reports, Kim Yo Jong is currently serving as a “protocol director” managing Kim Jong Un’s itineraries and public appearances and that “she started her career early last year [2012].”  While Kim may have been assigned her new position in early 2012, she has been active in the central party since 2009.

Kim has been observed on numerous occasions since 2009, when she accompanied her father, late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il), on guidance tours and inspections.  In 2010 she posed for a commemorative photograph with participants in the 3rd Party Conference, standing alongside KJI’s fifth wife Kim Ok which suggested that she was working in the Personal Secretariat.  In 2011 Kim Yo Jong was again observed at several of Kim Jong Il’s guidance tours, in the background with KJI’s personal aides and other Kim family members.

During events at her father’s funeral in December 2011, Kim was seen standing behind her brother as Kim Jong Un received foreign dignitaries.  She lined up with members of the leadership when they paid their respects at KJI’s casket. Twice during calling hours, she led core members of the DPRK leadership, standing in the center, in bowing at KJI’s remains; on one occasion she led Korean Workers’ Party Secretary and Director of the United Fron Kim Yang Gon, KWP Secretary for Machine-Building Industry Pak To Chun, KWP Secretary and Director of Cadres’ Affairs Kim P’yo’ng-hae and Gen. U Tong Chuk to KJI’s bier; on another occasion she led Kim Chang Son, Kim Kang Chol and other officials of KJI’s Personal Secretariat to the bier.  When a ceremony was held at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun prior to the funeral service, Kim Yo Jong lined up with party elders Jon Pyong Ho, Choe Yong Rim and Kim Kuk Tae.

During 2012 and 2013 Kim Yo Jong has made several observed appearances, which ROK-based Pyongyang watchers link to her new role managing Kim Jong Un’s public appearances.  She was observed playfully jumping in the background during the opening of a park in Pyongyang in the spring of 2012.  In November the same year she attended Kim Jong Un’s visit to a Korean People’s Army equestrian training ground (now called the Mirim Riding Club).  Although her presence was not reported in DPRK state media, two images of her riding a horse, including one with her paternal aunt Kim Kyong Hui, were aired in the Korean Central Television news report of the visit.  Kim Yo Jong also was observed sitting with Kim Kyong Hui during a central party banquet in 2013.

Based on the description of her current role in support of her brother, Kim Yo Jong is working in a position similar to that of her older step-sister Kim So’l-song (Kim Sul Song).  For a number of years Kim So’l-song worked directly for Kim Jong Il, holding a Lt. Colonel’s rank in the Guard Command and managing KJI’s itineraries and some of the logistical and security arrangements around his public appearances.  After Kim Jong Il passed away, according to a well-placed DPRK source, Kim So’l-song moved into a more substantive managerial position (along with her husband) to support Kim Jong Un.  Due to Kim Yo Jong’s familial relationship to Kim Jong Un some ROK-based Pyongyang watchers have compared her with her aunt, Kim Kyong Hui (with whom Yo Jong has a close relationship) who began working at the age of 25 at the Korean Democratic Women’s Union in 1971.  Kim Yo Jong has other siblings and step-siblings who work around DPRK leadership circles including her oldest brother Kim Jong Chol (Kim Cho’ng-ch’o’l), who works in the KWP Propaganda and Agitation Department (note the name of the editor of Korea), and her older step-brother Kim Jong Nam, who manages several trading corporations.

Kim Yo Jong is Kim Jong Il’s youngest child and was the third child from his marriage to Ko Yong Hui (1953-2004).  She was born in Pyongyang in 1987.  Around 1996 Kim left the DPRK with Kim Jong Un to attend school in Berne, Switzerland.  With her brother she resided at a DPRK-owned residence.  Like her brother, she was registered at Swiss schools under an alias and was said to be the child of the residence’s domestic staff.  She was looked after by a small staff of women whom school officials felt overprotected her (for example, when she had minor illnesses she was taken to a local hospital).  Aside from holiday visits to her home country, Kim Yo Jong remained in Berne through 2001.  After her maternal aunt Ko Yong Suk defected to the west in 2001, Kim Yo Jong was removed from school in Switzerland and returned to the DPRK.  She completed her secondary and university education in her home country.  In 2004 her mother, Ko Yong Hui, passed away due to a recurrence of breast cancer.  In addition to Korean, she speaks some English and German.  When she was in her late teens, Kim Yo Jong expressed an interest in politics and DPRK political culture to her father, something about which he proudly discussed with foreign interlocutors.  In 2008, she was a constant presence at Kim Jong Il’s hospital bedside after he suffered two strokes.  Kim Yo Jong was groomed for a role in the country’s political affairs by her paternal aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, and her husband Jang Song Taek, and she began working in the Party Central Committee in 2009.

JST on Political Bureau Presidium?

8 Jan
Jang Song Taek with Kim Jong Un in November 2012 and with Kim Jong Il in October 2011 (Photos: KCNA and KCTV screengrab)

Jang Song Taek with Kim Jong Un in November 2012 and with Kim Jong Il in October 2011 (Photos: KCNA and KCTV screengrab)

Graphic showing members and alternates of the KWP Political Bureau, reflecting Mr. Jang's alleged appointment to the Presidium (standing committee) (NKLW Graphic by M. Madden)

Graphic showing members and alternates of the KWP Political Bureau, reflecting Mr. Jang’s alleged appointment to the Presidium (standing committee) (NKLW Graphic by M. Madden)

Kyunhyang Shinum reported on 3 January 2013 that Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek; Jang Song Thaek) has quietly ascended to the Presidium (standing committee) of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau.  An unnamed diplomatic source (who cited someone in the DPRK) told Kyunghyang that “that Jang Song Thaek was promoted to the Political Bureau Presidium last year [2012].”  It is not certain whether JST was elected to the Presidium at reported Political Bureau meetings on 15 July 2012 or on 4 November 2012.  If JST ascended to the Presidium he has filled the vacancy left by former Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff Ri Yong Ho, who was removed from all party and military positions during the July Political Bureau meeting.  JST was elected an alternate (candidate member) of the Political Bureau at the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010 and was moved up to being a full member of the Political Bureau at the 4th Party Conference on 11 April 2012.

Jang Song Taek has been instrumental in managing Kim Jong Un’s (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) relatively seamless transition.  A 26 December 2012 report in Kyodo News utilizing a Radiopress count of Kim Jong Un’s 149 reported public appearance, found that JST was reported to have attended 106 (71 %) of KJU’s events during the year.  Yonhap noted that in December 2012, made eight (8) reported public appearances, all of which were attended by Kim Jong Un.  According to Yonhap reported that this “indicates that Jang is now selectively attending so-called ‘No. 1 events’ that take place with Kim in attendance” and demonstrates his “‘raised’ status” in the leadership.

As evidence of Jang Song Taek’s elevated status in the KWP Political Bureau, Kyunghyang notes that since late November 2012 Jang’s name is listed or called among other Presidium Members in DPRK state media reporting.  At events in December 2012 and January 2013 attended by the Presidium’s three other members, JST is listed fourth in state media reports which implies his Presidium membership.

17 December 2012: KJI Demise Ku’msusan Visit

He was accompanied by Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Thaek, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Kyok Sik, Pak To Chun, Kim Yong Chun, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Yang Hyong Sop, Kang Sok Ju, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, Ri Myong Su, Kim Jong Gak, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim Phyong Hae, Mun Kyong Dok, Kwak Pom Gi, Ju Kyu Chang, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam, Jo Yon Jun, Thae Jong Su and Choe Chun Sik, officials of the party, armed forces and power organs, the Cabinet and working people’s organizations, heroes, those who had been received by President Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong ll and labor innovators.

21 December 2012: 1st U’nha-3/KMS-3 Launch Personnel Banquet

Also present there were senior party, state and army officials including Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Thaek, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyok Sik, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Yong Chun, Kang Sok Ju, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, Ri Myong Su, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim Phyong Hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Ju Kyu Chang, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam, Jo Yon Jun and Choe Chun Sik.

24 December 2012: KJI Supreme Commander/KJS Birthday Ku’msusan Visit

He was accompanied by Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Thaek, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyok Sik, Pak To Chun, Kim Yong Chun, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, Ri Myong Su, Ju Kyu Chang, Kim Kyong Ok, Choe Pu Il, Jo Kyong Chol, Pak Jong Chon, Ri Pyong Chol, Kim Yong Chol, Yun Jong Rin and other officials of the Central Military Commission of the WPK and the NDC of the DPRK and commanding officers of the KPA.

30 December 2012: Photo Op with U’nha-3/KMS-3 Launch Personnel

Present there were Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Yong Chun, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim Phyong Hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Ju Kyu Chang, Jo Yon Jun, Choe Chun Sik, Ri Ung Won, department directors and first vice department directors of the WPK Central Committee.

30 December 2012: 2nd Banquet for U’nha-3/KMS-3 Launch Personnel

Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Gen. Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Taek, Gen. Hyon Yong Chol, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Tae Bok, Pak To Chun, VMar Kim Yong Chun, Kang Sok Ju, VMar Hyon Chol Hae, Gen. Kim Won Hong, Gen. Ri Myong Su, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim P’yo’ng Hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Ju Kyu Chang, Col. Gen. Kim Chang Sop, Ro Tu Chol, Col. Gen. Ri Pyong Sam, Jo Yon Jun

1 January 2013: New Year’s Day Ku’msusan Visit

He was accompanied by Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Thaek, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyok Sik, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Yong Chun, Yang Hyong Sop, Kang Sok Ju, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, Ri Myong Su, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim Phyong Hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Ju Kyu Chang, Kim Chang Sop, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam and Jo Yon Jun, who are leading officials of the party, state and the army, and officials of leadership organ of the Central Committee of the WPK.

Jang Song Taek at the Ku'mususan Memorial Palace of the Sun on 17 December 2012 (L and C) and on 24 December 2012 (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs and Rodong Sinmun)

Jang Song Taek at the Ku’mususan Memorial Palace of the Sun on 17 December 2012 (L and C) and on 24 December 2012 (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs and Rodong Sinmun)

Jang Song Taek (L) attends a New Year's reception in Pyongyang on 1 January 2013 with Kim Jong Un (4th L) and the PRC Ambassador to the DPRK (3rd L) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Jang Song Taek (L) attends a New Year’s reception in Pyongyang on 1 January 2013 with Kim Jong Un (4th L) and the PRC Ambassador to the DPRK (3rd L) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

After Ri Yong Ho’s removal from office, based on DPRK state media reporting, it appeared that Gen. Hyon Yong Chol assumed Ri’s Presidium membership along with heading the KPA General Staff.  Until late November 2012, Gen. Hyon’s name was listed or called before Jang Song Taek’s.  JST has not only displaced Gen. Hyon on the state media-based hierarchy, but also his wife Kim Kyong Hui (sister of Kim Jong Il and paternal aunt of Kim Jong Un).

30 August 2012: Photo-op with Youth Day Participants

Present there were Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyong Hui, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Ri Yong Su and the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, the head of the delegation of Korean youth and students in Japan and the head of the delegation of the Youth Federation of Korean Nationals in China.

2 September 2012: Concert of KPA Brass Band

Among the audience were KPA Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, director of the KPA General Political Bureau, KPA Vice Marshal Hyon Yong Chol, chief of the KPA General Staff, Jang Song Thaek, vice-chairman of the NDC, KPA Generals Choe Pu Il, Pak Jae Gyong and Kim Yong Chol, KPA Lieut. General Pak Jong Chon, Hwang Pyong So, vice department director of the C.C., the WPK, and KPA service personnel.

9 September 2012: Foundation Day Ku’msusan Visit

Kim Jong Un was accompanied by Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Gak, Ri Yong Mu, Pak To Chun, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, O Kuk Ryol and other members of the Central Military Commission of the WPK and the National Defence Commission and staff members of the Supreme Command.

9 September 2012: KPA Song and Dance Ensemble Concert

Among the audience were Choe Yong Rim, Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Ki Nam, Pak To Chun, Kim Jong Gak, Yang Hyong Sop, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, Kim Yong Il, Kim Yang Gon, Mun Kyong Dok, Ro Tu Chol and officials of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the Cabinet, ministries and national institutions and Pyongyangites.

10 September 2012: Ku’msusan KWP Anniversary Visit

The participants included Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Jong Gak, Jang Song Thaek, Ri Yong Mu, Pak To Chun, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, O Kuk Ryol, Choe Pu Il, Kim Kyong Ok, Ri Pyong Chol, Kim Myong Sik, Yun Jong Rin, Pak Jong Chon and Kim Yong Chol.

29 October 2012: PY Soccer Finals

Among the spectators were Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Kyong Hui, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Phyong Hae, Ju Kyu Chang, Mun Kyong Dok, officials of party and armed forces organs, ministries and national institutions and in the field of sports, sports persons, sports fans and people from all walks of life in Pyongyang

29 October 2012: KISMU Photo Op

Accompanying him in the photo session were Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Jong Gak, Jang Song Thaek, Ri Yong Mu, Kim Yong Chun, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong, Ri Myong Su, O Kuk Ryol, Ju Kyu Chang, Ryo Chun Sok, Jang Tong Un and other senior party and army officials.

7 November 2012: Shooting Contest and Volleyball Match

Among the spectators were senior officials of the party and army Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Phyong Hae, Mun Kyong Dok, Ri Yong Su, Pak Pong Ju, Han Kwang Sang and other members of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission.

18 November 2012: Mothers’ Meeting Photo-op

Present there were Kim Kyong Hui, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Ki Nam, Pak To Chun, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Kim Phyong Hae, Kwak Pom Gi, Mun Kyong Dok, Ro Tu Chol, Jo Yon Jun, Ri Yong Su, Ro Song Sil, chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, Jong Hui Ja, head of the delegation of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union in Japan, Chon Jae Ryon, head of the delegation of Korean women in China, and Jong Il Sim, head of the delegation of Korean women in Russia.

25 November 2012: Equestrian KPA Company

He was accompanied by Choe Ryong Hae, Kim Kyong Hui, Jang Song Thaek, Hyon Yong Chol, Kim Ki Nam, Kim Kyok Sik, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Phyong Hae, Mun Kyong Dok, Pak Pong Ju, Han Kwang Sang, Kim Kyong Ok, Ri Ryong Ha, Hwang Pyong So, Kim Pyong Ho, Choe Pu Il, Son Chol Ju, Pak Jae Gyong, Pak Jong Chon, Kim Yong Chol, Jon Chang Bok and other senior officials of the party and the army.

Kyunghyang also reported that a different unnamed source claimed that Jang Song Taek will be appointed DPRK Cabinet Premier (Prime Minister) when the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly convenes its 7th session (plenum), presumably in April 2013.  Kyunghyang reported that JST was originally set to replace current Premier Choe Yong Rim in September, following JST’s visit to China.  Since Kim Jong Un’s accession in January and the subsequent senior personnel changes resulting therefrom, Choe’s name has appeared on several Pyongyang watchers’ lists of party elders targeted for replacement, including a recent three-part essay on DPRK politics by Dr. Alexandre Mansourov (although Mansourov identified Jang Song Taek as a likely replacement for Kim Yong Nam, President of the SPA Presidium and the official head of state).

However, Choe (like other elder elites) has been useful both to Kim Jong Un and Jang Song Taek.  On 17 December 2012 Tokyo Shimbun, citing a Pyongyang-based Korean Workers’ Party source, reported about an unpublicized meeting of party officials.  At the meeting there was some deliberation as to whether Kim Jong Un (who attended) should visit cooperative farms.  Choe Yong Rim said, “The time in not yet ripe for Dear General Kim Jong Un to visit and meet with farmers because conditions have yet to be created for totally resolving the problems of the farming sector.  Though I am this old, I will sacrifice myself for you for the time being.  Please, do not worry.”  After Choe spoke, Kim Kyong Hui remarked that “Prime Minister Choe’s spirit of sacrifice is great!”  Gen. Choe Ryong Hae, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department said that “Comrade Choe Yong Rim will address the problems of the industry and farming sectors, while Comrade Jang Song Taek and I will handle issues in the military, so you (KJU) have nothing to worry about.”

DPRK Developing Master Economic Plan with German Advice

7 Jan

dpr_GFR_060112

German media reported on 4 January (Friday) that the DPRK is formulating a “master plan” to develop its economy and attract foreign investment with advice from German economists and attorneys.  According to Frankfurter Allgemeine, the DPRK is working on legislation to increase foreign investment.  One of the German economists involved in the consultations told the newspaper that “There is a master plan.  They want the opening [to occur] later this year.”  While the country continues to develop and plans to utilize Chinese-type Special Economic Zones in Raso’n and Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng/Wihwa Islands, it also wants to lure foreign investment in underdeveloped mineral resources from countries other than China.  The DPRK is studying the “Vietnamese blueprint whereby selected enterprises for investment are picked out,” according to one of the German experts involved.

Despite a general consensus within the DPRK’s central leadership, Korean People’s Army [KPA] units which control mines and export mineral resources to China are reluctant to surrender their lucrative mineral resources which could obstruct any potential legal changes or policy modifications.    Frankfurter Allgemeine reports that one of the leading DPRK elites promoting DPRK-German contacts and “seeking to attract expertise” is the head of Joint Venture and Investment Commission [JVIC].  Current JVIC Chairman Ri Kwang Kun is fluent in German, studied there in the 1970s and held a series of foreign trade  positions at the DPRK Embassy in Berlin in the 1980s and 1990s.  

Kim Jong Il visits Wo'nsan University of Agriculture (L) in April 2009, an event which Kim Jong Un attended as hereditary successor.  During this visit  Kim Jong Un posed for a commemorative photo with his two siblings and KWP officials (Photos: KCNA, KCTV-Yonhap)

Kim Jong Il visits Wo’nsan University of Agriculture (L) in April 2009, an event which Kim Jong Un attended as hereditary successor. During this visit Kim Jong Un posed for a commemorative photo (R) with his two siblings and KWP officials (Photos: KCNA, KCTV-Yonhap)

Germany has recently conducted several agricultural education programs which has included a study tour to The Netherlands and Germany  and an organic farming program that began in 2011 and will continue until 2014.  In late October German-Swiss Kempinski Hotels announced that it would manage the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang.    The GDR (former East Germany) financed and contributed to post-war construction in Hamhu’ng, South Hamgyo’ng Province during the 1950s and 1960s.  One of the most significant events during Kim Jong Un’s succession was his father, Kim Jong Il, visiting Wo’nsan University of Agriculture in April 2009. Part of the university’s campus is located at the old German Benedictine To’kwon Abbey (see images here and here).    During that visit, KJI introduced KJU to the university’s officials saying that “this is a very significant university where the stunning achievements of Great Leader Kim Il-sung and Mother Kim Jong-suk are exemplified.  Today I have come here with General Kim [Jong-un].  This is a glorious university which has served the Great Leader, Mother Kim Jong-suk, me and General Kim.”  Kim Jong Un posed for a commemorative photograph with his elder brother Kim Jong Chol, his younger sister Kim Yo Jong and Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Kim Ki Nam.  While KJU and his sibling studied in Switzerland they were educated in the German language.

Ceremony Opens Renovation of Ku’msusan Memorial Palace (updated)

17 Dec
Kim Jong Un (7th L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (6th L) pay their respects at Ku'msusan Memorial Palace on 17 December 2012.  Also seen in attendance are Choe Tae Bok (L), Kim Ki Nam (2nd L), Kim Kyong Hui (3rd L), Choe Yong Rim (4th L), Kim Yong Nam (5th L), Choe Ryong Hae (5th R), Jang Song Taek (4th R), Hyon Yong Chol (3rd R), Kim Kyok Sik (2nd R) and Kim Yong Chun (R) (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Kim Jong Un (7th L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (6th L) pay their respects at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace on 17 December 2012. Also seen in attendance are Choe Tae Bok (L), Kim Ki Nam (2nd L), Kim Kyong Hui (3rd L), Choe Yong Rim (4th L), Kim Yong Nam (5th L), Choe Ryong Hae (5th R), Jang Song Taek (4th R), Hyon Yong Chol (3rd R), Kim Kyok Sik (2nd R) and Kim Yong Chun (R) (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

DPRK state media reported on 17 December (Monday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) attended a ceremony opening the renovated Ku’msusan Memorial Palace.  KJU’s last reported public appearance was his attendance at a national memorial service commemorating the first anniversary of the death of his father, the late leader Kim Jong Il.  At his visit to Ku’msusan KJU was joined by his wife Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu).  Ri’s last reported public appearance was her attendance at a shooting contest and volleyball match, reported by state media on 7 November.  In images released of the ceremony at Ku’msusan, Ri appears to be pregnant.  Also in attendance at the ceremony were KJU’s aunt and KJI’s sister, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary Kim Kyong Hui and her husband National Defense Commission Vice Chairman Jang Song Taek, as well as Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department (bureau) Choe Ryong Hae, KWP Secretary Choe Tae Bok, KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam, Chief of the KPA General Staff Hyon Yong Chol, SPA Presidium Vice President Yang Hyong Sop, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier Kang Sok Ju, KWP Secrtary KWP Secretary Pak To Chun, 1st Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces and Director of the KPA General Logistics Department Hyon Chol Hae, other members of the KWP Political Bureau, party leadership and senior government and military officials.  Interestingly, VMar Kim Jong Gak, recently dismissed as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, was listed by KCNA as in attendance at Ku’msusan (he can be seen in these grainy images).

Also attendance at the ceremony and inaugural visit to the renovated palace, according to KCNA, were “scientists, technicians, workers and officials who contributed to the successful launch of the second version of satellite Kwangmyo’ngso’ng-3, overseas Koreans’ delegations and other overseas compatriots, those related to the revolutionary activities of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and the chief of the Pyongyang mission of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front, diplomatic envoys of various countries, representatives of international organizations and members of the military attaches corps here” along with officials of “ministries and national institutions, heroes and those who were received by President Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, those who are related with their revolutionary activities, merited persons, and officers and men of the KPA and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces. Also present there were officials in the scientific, educational, literature and art, public health and media fields, members of the bereaved families of revolutionary martyrs (and) working people.”

Kim Jong Un (foreground, R) greets members of the central leadership prior to a ceremony reopening the Ku'msusan Memorial Palace.  Also seen in attendance is his wife Ri Sol Ju (background, R) (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

Kim Jong Un (foreground, R) greets members of the central leadership prior to a ceremony reopening the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace. Also seen in attendance is his wife Ri Sol Ju (background, R) (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

KJU and and Ri Sol Ju arrived at the plaza in front of Ku’msusan where senior officials bowed as they greeted them.  KJU and the assembled central leadership lined up behind a ceremonial red tape which KCNA reported “representatives of KPA, workers, farmers and intellectuals cut off the tape” to open the palace.  After the ceremonial tape was cut, a series of personal aides to members of the leadership scrambled over to assist the DPRK elites in removing their coats prior to their entrance to the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun.  Kim Jong Un, Ri Sol Ju and the assembled members of the leadership visited the hall to where a series of floral baskets from party, government and military power organizations were placed.  A ceremony was held in the plaza in front of the Ku’msusan Palace.

Representatives of different sectors of DPRK society who participated in the renovation work at Ku'msusan cut a ceremonial tape (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

Representatives of different sectors of DPRK society who participated in the renovation work at Ku’msusan cut a ceremonial tape (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

Aides assist members of the leadership, including Kim Kyong Hui (annotated), in removing their coats prior to entering the Ku'msusan Memorial Palace (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

Aides assist members of the leadership, including Kim Kyong Hui (annotated), in removing their coats prior to entering the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace (Photo: KCTV/KCNA screengrab)

Choe Ryong Hae (4th L) delivers a speech during a ceremony opening the renovated Ku'msusan Memorial Palace, where the remains of the late leader Kim Jong were put on public display for the first time since his funeral in December 2011.  Also seen in attendance are Kim Jong Un (3rd R), Kim Yong Nam (2nd R) and Choe Yong Rim (R) (Photo: KCNA)

Choe Ryong Hae (4th L) delivers a speech during a ceremony opening the renovated Ku’msusan Memorial Palace, where the remains of the late leader Kim Jong were put on public display for the first time since his funeral in December 2011. Also seen in attendance are Kim Jong Un (3rd R), Kim Yong Nam (2nd R) and Choe Yong Rim (R) (Photo: KCNA)

Choe Ryong Hae delivered a speech in which, according to KCNA, he said “that the Ku’msusan Palace of the Sun is the supreme temple of Juche which symbolizes the glorious revolutionary careers of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and their feats and which reflects the steady continuity given to the history of the sun.”  In his remarks, Choe also corroborated that KJI’s yacht was displayed along with other personal effects along with his personal railway carriage, photographs and “other historic relics and orders are on display at the palace with much care are symbolic of the noble lives of the great Generalissimos who dedicated their all to the prosperity of the country, the happiness of the people and the global independence throughout their revolutionary careers.”  According to the Associated Press, the display of KJI’s personal effects also included his sunglasses, a pair of his platform shows, his off-white park and “a MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.”   According to KCNA Choe also said “the inauguration of the palace will make it possible for the army and people of the DPRK to come to the sacred temple of the sun in joy or in sorrow, have dialogues with the great Generalissimos in their minds and deepen close bonds of a harmonious whole.”

Choe Ryong Hae speaks during a ceremony inaugurating the renovation of Ku'msusan Memorial Palace.  Standing beside Choe are Jang Song Taek (L) and Choe Chun Sik (R) (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

Choe Ryong Hae speaks during a ceremony inaugurating the renovation of Ku’msusan Memorial Palace. Standing beside Choe are Jang Song Taek (L) and Choe Chun Sik (R) (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

Members of the central leadership applaud during a ceremony inaugurating the renovated Ku'msusan Memorial Palace.  Seen in this image are KJI's sister, Kim Kyong Hui (L), KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam (2nd L), KWP Secretary Choe Tae Bok (3rd L), KWP Secretary Pak To Chun (4th L) and Yang Hyong Sop (5th L) (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

Members of the central leadership applaud during a ceremony inaugurating the renovated Ku’msusan Memorial Palace. Seen in this image are KJI’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui (L), KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam (2nd L), KWP Secretary Choe Tae Bok (3rd L), KWP Secretary Pak To Chun (4th L) and Yang Hyong Sop (5th L) (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

KJU, Ri Sol Ju, the members of the central leadership, various DPRK elites and invited guests also visited a room containing the remains of his father, Kim Jong Il.  It was the first public display of KJI’s remains, which have undergone an extensive preservation process, since December 2011.  According to KCNA, KJU “made bows in humble reverence for Kim Jong Il, who turned the DPRK into a political and ideological power based on the single-minded unity, a world-level military power, a full-fledged nuclear weapons state and a space power and laid eternal foundations for the prosperity of the country.”  KJU also visited “the mourning hall, the room where the orders Kim Jong Il received are on display and the room where a car, electric car, ship and train used by him are on view, which were perfectly built by the intense loyalty and sense of moral obligation of the whole party, the entire army and people.”

The Ghosts of Cadres Past

12 Dec
(Photos: KCNA)

(Photos: KCNA)

Since the beginning of December, DPRK state media has gradually released a series of news items and photo essays in commemoration of the one year anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s demise.  On 17 December 2011 Kim Jong Il passed away, according to the official chronicles, of a heart attack on a railway carriage during his field guidance and inspection tours.  A series of images published by Rodong Sinmun show several officials who were publicly retired or died under questionable circumstances during the transition from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un.

Typically, the DPRK’s image makers hit the “crop” function to delete the politically departed, the unpersons, from the official photographs (or otherwise pixellate their faces from the official documentary films).  There are a number of senior officials who were dismissed or disappeared who have not appeared in the ongoing RS series–including Pak Nam Gi (only shown in profile) and VMar Ri Yong Ho (Ri Yong Who?).  However, four officials believed to have been bounced by the Center appear in some of the photos .  This suggests that some officials may have been shuffled out simply due to old age or that their perceived political sins have been absolved.

Jon Pyong Ho Jon was the Korean Workers’ Party’s  [KWP] chieftain of all military, arms and munitions production.  Jon was the institutional godfather of the DPRK’s strategic weapons programs and managed the 2006 and 2009 experimental nuclear detonations and several missile and rocket tests in the 1990s and 2000s.  Prior to the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010 Jon migrated his executive role in the DPRK’s arms industry to serving as the DPRK Cabinet’s chief political manager.  After the 3rd Party Conference he retained his membership on the KWP Political Bureau, but was replaced as the party’s secretary for military industry.  In April 2011 he was publicly retired as a member of the DPRK National Defense Commission.  In December 2011 Jon was listed as #6 on the national funeral committee for Kim Jong Il and prominently attended several funeral-related events.  One of his last reported public appearances was at a mourning ceremony for KJI in March 2012.  At the 4th Party Conference Jon was removed from the KWP Political Bureau.  Some Pyongyang watchers have interpreted Jon’s removal from office as an active purge by Kim Jong Un.  However, his prominence in this image from a 2005 visit to the Rakwo’n Machine Complex in Sinu’iju implies that Jon’s role remains honored by the new leadership.

Jon Pyong Ho attends KJI's tour of the Rakwo'n Machine Complex in January 2005 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Jon Pyong Ho attends KJI’s tour of the Rakwo’n Machine Complex in January 2005 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

VMar Kim Il Chol From 1997 to 2007 VMar Kim was the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, a figurehead of the Korean People’s Army.  A longtime commander of the KPA Navy Command, Kim played a key operational role in the 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo. In May 2010, in a rare communique, the National Defense Commission publicly retired him  of “his posts” “due to advanced age.”  At the time of his dismissal the NDC had two other members–Jon Pyong Ho and VMar Ri Yong Mu–who were several years older than Kim.  According to a recent (and likely erroneous) report in South Korean media, he was executed last year.  VMar Kim appears in several of the KJI memorial images, including this image from a KJI visit with disabled veterans in April 2003.  While VMar Kim may have been a misfit toy, the current leadership is not ignoring his many years of service.

VMar Kim Il Chol (annotated) attends a KJI meeting with veterans in April 2003 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

VMar Kim Il Chol (annotated) attends a KJI meeting with veterans in April 2003 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Tae Nam Ri was from a rare genus of DPRK elites, being both a technocrat and experienced political manager.  In 2010 he was appointed a DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier at the 3rd session (plenum) of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] and during the 3rd Party Conference he was elected an alternate (candidate member) of the KWP Political Bureau.  In April 2011 Ri was removed as Vice Premier, at the 4th session of the 12th SPA “for his health reason,”  Ri also lost his alternate status on the Political Bureau.  However he was listed at #28 on Kim Jong Il’s funeral committee, after all other Political Bureau members and alternates.  Ri appears in some of the KJI memorial images from the early 2000s when Ri was the party’s chief secretary in South Hamgyo’ng Province.

Ri Tae Nam attends KJI's inspection of the Kumjin River Power station in November 2000 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Tae Nam attends KJI’s inspection of the Kumjin River Power station in November 2000 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Tae Nam takes notes during KJI's visit to a goat farm in Hamhu'ng, South Hamgyo'ng Province in May 2001 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Tae Nam takes notes during KJI’s visit to a goat farm in Hamhu’ng, South Hamgyo’ng Province in May 2001 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Je Gang Ri was one of Kim Jong Il’s closest aides.  He was a key administrative gatekeeper responsible for channeling documents, policies, faxes to and from KJI.  He also hired the technical and clerical staff who worked directly for KJI and signed off on a number of personnel appointments from internal security managers to the young women who sang, danced and conversed with KJI and other core elites at social occaisions.  A lot of reporting and analysis has focused on Ri’s close ties to Ko Yong Hui which was the apotheosis of Kim Jong Un’s hereditary succession, but he was also close to KJI’s eldest son Kim Jong Nam.  In June 2010 DPRK state media reported that Ri Je Gang was killed in a car accident.  Despite the fact that his funeral was quick and private, and the central party garage neither took posession of the damaged car nor receivied a formal accident report, Ri was buried with the stars commensurate to a key official.  Ri’s death has been linked to an alleged rivalry with Jang Song Taek (a rivalry which was never conclusively established).  Considering Ri Je Gang’s prominence in two images released to memorialize KJI, Ri’s death may been tied to a political fight with DPRK elites other than Mr. Jang.

Ri Je Gang attends Kim Jong Il's visit to the Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory in September 2009 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Je Gang attends Kim Jong Il’s visit to the Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory in September 2009 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Je Gang attends KJI's visit to the indoor swimming pool at Kim Il Sung University in September 2009 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Ri Je Gang attends KJI’s visit to the indoor swimming pool at Kim Il Sung University in September 2009 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

The website NK News has swapped the European royal court playing card decks (dating back several centuries) for members of the DPRK leadership.  That next canasta cruise on the Taedong or your quiet cribbage game at the Hyangsan Hotel won’t be complete without dealing Kim Ki Nam or Choe Yong Rim from the bottom of the deckThe DPRK leadership playing cards can be obtained from NK News.

Is Gen. Kim Kyok Sik the New Defense Minister? (updated)

30 Nov

Kim Jong Un shakes hands Gen. Kim Kyok Sik during a visit to the equestrian company of KPA Unit #534. Also seen in attendance is VMar Choe Ryong Hae (background, C) (Photo: KCNA)

South Korean government officials claim that Gen. Kim Kyok Sik has replaced VMar Kim Jong Gak as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces (i.e. north Korea’s defense minister).  In its report the Associated Press cited anonymous diplomatic sources in Pyongyang who said “that they were informed that Kim Jong Gak had been replaced as armed forces minister by Kim Kyok Sik.”

There has not been an official announcement about the personnel change  in DPRK state media.  It is likely that in lieu of an explicit announcement, Gen. Kim’s new position will be publicized when he attends a public event and is identified as the new defense minister.  On 29 November (Thursday) DPRK state media reported that Kim Kyok Sik attended two events celebrating the Day of Airmen, the 67th anniversary of the foundation of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Forces.  One of these events was a celebratory banquet hosted by the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, however VMar Choe Ryong Hae delivered the congratulatory speech.  The media reports did not identify Kim Kyok Sik (or any other participants) by his position.

If corroborated by the DPRK, this will be the fourth personnel appointment in the KPA’s high command in 2012.  In April, Kim Jong Gak replaced VMar Kim Yong Chun as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces and VMar Choe Ryong Hae was appointed Director of the KPA General Political Department (bureau), filling a vacancy left by the November 2010 death of incumbent VMar Jo Myong Rok.  In July, VMar Ri Yong was dismissed as Chief of the KPA General Staff and replaced by Hyon Yong Chol.

Gen Shwe Mann (left) and Gen Kim Gyok-sik (R) exchange copies of a memorandum of understanding at the Defense Ministry on November, 2008.

Gen.Kim Kyok Sik (Photos: KCNA)

A graduate of Kim Il Sung Military University, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik was a close military aide and advisor to the late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il.  From 2009 to 2011 he served as commanding officer of the IV Army Corps, which is stationed near Haeju, South Hwanghae Province, on the Military Demarcation Line [MDL], the controversial maritime DPRK-ROK border.  Gen. Kim had a commanding role in the 23 November 2010 artillery shelling of Yo’np’yo’ng Island which resulted in the deaths of two ROK Marines and two ROK civilians.

From 2007 to 2009 Kim Kyok Sik served as the Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff.  One of the more notable (and au courant) aspects of Gen. Kim’s tenure at the General Staff for external observers was when he met with and signed a military and munitions cooperation agreement with former Myanmar (Burma) Army General  Shwe Mann in November 2008 during a visit to the DPRK by a Myanmar Armed Forces delegation.  During the 1970s and early 1980s Kim served as a military attache at the DPRK Embassy in Syria, where he coordinated military assistance to the Syrians as well as managed the provision of arms and advisors to revolutionary paramilitary organizations operating in Africa and the Middle East.   Gen. Kim is often identified by external Pyongyang watchers as a “hardliner” because his command experience has been in the II and IV Army Corps, two of the KPA’s four forward-deployed army corps units whose command and senior officers are militantly anti-ROK.

20094kjg

Kim Jong Gak (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Gak (R) attends a statue dedication ceremony at Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang on 29 October 2012(Photo: KCNA)

One of Kim Jong Gak’s last reported public appearances was his attendance at the unveiling of a statue of Kim Jong Il on the campus of the Kim Il Sung Military University on 29 October 2012.  In February 2012 Kim Jong Gak was promoted to Vice Marshal (ch’asu) and in April 2012 was appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, meaning that he formally held the position for seven months.  In the weeks leading up to his dismissal, Kim discharged a number of ministerial duties.  He  delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony of a fitness center on T’ongil Street in east Pyongyang on 16 October 2012.  He received a Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces delegation led by Gen. Joaquín Quintas Solá on 8 September 2012, spoke at opening ceremonies for the Pyongyang Folk Park and the renovated Taeso’ngsan Fun Fair (amusement park) and delivered a speech at an 18 October 2012 KPA rally on improving city parks in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Gak was linked to transition and succession planning.  He was appointed senior deputy (1st vice) director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department (bureau) [GPD] in 2007 (with the GPD taking responsibility for hereditary succession-based political education and indoctrination of KPA officers and service members) and elected in 2009 as a member of the DPRK National Defense Commission (the first major political line-up of the nascent Kim Jong Un regime).  In both of these positions, Kim Jong Gak enjoyed an increasing public profile in DPRK political culture.  His profile was enhanced further when he was elected as an alternate (candidate member) of the KWP Political Bureau and a member of the KWP Central Military Commission at the 3rd Party Conference  on 28 September 2010.  Kim Jong Gak had a reputation as a skull cracker in Pyongyang’s corridors of power, however he was once gently admonished by Kim Jong Il for laughing too much during a field inspection.  Kim’s career, like many current and former DPRK elites, has been mixed.  In the early 2000s he was migrated from his position as Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces to the corps command, however it remains unclear if this was an actual demotion or if he had been tasked by the center to supervise a restructuring of military units.

Had Kim Jong Il been alive, Kim Jong Gak’s February 2012 promotion and his April 2012 appointment as minister would have been realized.  It is also likely the promotion and appointment were part of KJI’s final bequests.  Kim Jong Gak’s removal from office does not represent signs of instability in the country’s leadership, a claim that might be raised by the ambulance chasers in the Pyongyang-watching community.  Rather, it might represent that KJU has continued to successfully consolidate his authority, showing he has the ability and clout to make his own senior personnel appointments.  Kim Jong Gak’s dismissal does not appear to be linked to any major policy differences or insubordination.  Another factor is that during 2007-2011 Kim was a key official who supervised a number of dismissals in the KPA’s officers’ corps.  This may have made his position untenable.   If his appointment as minister was a holdover from the KJI era, it was probably contingent on VMar Ri Yong Ho remaining as Chief of the KPA General Staff. (Whether Kim and Ri were intended to support , neutralize or spy on one other is separate matter altogether.)  If Ri’s dismissal was due to corruption or misappropriation of assets, Kim Jong Gak may have been one of the insects scurrying away when the central party turned that rock over.

Kim Jong Gak and Ri Yong Ho in civilian and military attire in 2010 (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

After Ri Yong Ho’s dismissal, the core leadership may have questioned Kim Jong Gak’s loyalties.  Three days after Ri’s dismissal, the KPA held “a resolution meeting of officers and men of the KPA” on 18 July.  State broadcast media coverage of the meeting provided a voiceover which summarized Kim’s remarks then cut to Kim delivering a personal loyalty pledge.  While not unprecedented, it was notable that a senior official used the first-person singular (“I”) as against the collective first-person plural (“we”) in a public speech.  Perhaps this was Kim’s apologia or act of contrition:

With an absolutely immutable faith that the great victory of the general onward march of the new juche century lies on the path that follows the leadership of the respected and beloved Comrade Supreme Commander, I will share the affection and will with the Comrade Supreme Commander, vigorously prepare myself as a trustworthy military-first revolutionary fellow soldier that follows every step of the Comrade Supreme Commander with a pure conscience, and thoroughly establish a revolutionary work attitude that immediately accepts, immediately discusses, immediately implements, and immediately reports the orders and instructions of the Comrade Supreme Commander without wavering.

With a firm viewpoint that military life is preparation for battles, I will always run and run again until my shoes wear out in order to turn all companies of the entire army into the warm homes ofthe soldiers, and will become a truly loyal servant who works hard in order to feed the soldiers well.

I will work to realize, at the forefront, the resolution of the party to let the people enjoy the socialist wealth and honor to their heart’s content by carrying out the organizing and commanding in a responsible manner so that our people’s army may always play an active role in consolidating as firm as a rock the great army-people unity that is the mainstay of the military- first revolution, find and do more good work for the people, and bring about ceaseless innovation in important constructions for the construction of a powerful state and the people’s happiness while highly upholding Kim Jong Il patriotism.

A Day at the Races?

Kim Jong Un is briefed prior to a statue dedication ceremony at KIS Military University. Kim Jong Gak was not part of this group of senior officials which included the KPA’s chief political officer and the chief of the general staff (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

Kim Jong Gak’s dismissal was foreshadowed at one of his last known public appearances at the statue dedication ceremony at Kim Il Sung Military University.  Kim appeared in photographs of the event published by DPRK state media.  However, in an official documentary film about the statue dedication and related events, Kim is not shown in close-up shots of the leadership on the dais. (Kim Kyok Sik was shown.)  When Kim appeared in the film, it was almost always in the background.  He is not shown attending Kim Jong Un’s briefing with KISMU officials prior to the ceremony and does not appear in KJU’s tour of the KISMU historical exhibition which followed the ceremony.  When Kim Jong Un greeted various foreign ambassadors and diplomats at the end of the ceremony, VMar Choe Ryong Hae was KJU’s second and Kim Jong Gak is seen listlessly standing in the background.  This did not conform to the standard practice in which the Minister of People’s Armed Forces serves as the KPA’s leading representative in external relations.

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (annotated) on the platform with other senior KPA officials at the statue dedication ceremony at Kim Il Sung Military University. Also in attendance are DPRK NDC Vice Chairmen, VMar Ri Yong Mu (L) and Gen. O Kuk Ryol (2nd L) (Photo: KCNA/KCTV screengrab)

Gen. Kim Kyok Sik (annotated) attends Kim Jong Un’s visit to the equestrian company of KPA Unit #534. Also in this image is Kim Kyong Ok (L) (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Gak’s status was also questionable when he did not accompany Kim Jong Un’s visit to the equestrian company of KPA Unit #534, which Kim Kyok Sik attended.  Kim Jong Gak’s absence was notable because KJU’s coterie included most of the KPA’s senior leadership, except the defense minister.  Prominent in state media photographs of the visit was Kim Kyong Ok, a member of the KWP Central Military Commission and senior deputy (1st Vice) Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department.  In his OGD position Kim manages personnel affairs in the KPA and serves as one of Kim Jong Un’s main gatekeepers with the KPA.  Kim Kyong Ok was a key figure in the dismissal of Ri Yong Ho in July and most likely played a similar role in Kim Jong Gak’s ouster.

Mothers’ Meeting Held

16 Nov

Ro Song Sil (L), Chair of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, addresses the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

DPRK state media reported on 15 November (Thursday) that the Fourth National Meeting of Mothers was held at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang.  Attending the meeting were Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department [bureau] VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and SPA Chairman Choe Tae Bok, KWP Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation [publicity and information] Department Kim Ki Nam, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier Kim Yong Jin, Director of the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department Ri Yong Su, Chair of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union [Democratic Women's Union of Korea]  Ro Song Sil, Jong Hui Ja of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union of Japan.  Also in attendance were Chon Jae Ryong, leading a delegation of Korean women residing in the PRC, Jong Il Sim, leading a delegation of Korean women residing in the Russian Federation, “overseas women,” along with “officials of working people’s organizations, officials concerned, anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters, mothers who have devoted themselves to the upbringing of children and the drive for the prosperity of the country, wives of servicepersons, labor innovators, officials and other exemplary women.”

A view of the platform (rostrum) at the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

A view of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at the 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam delivers a congratulatory address on behalf of the party at the 4th National Meeting of Mothers at 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA screengrab)

After a moment of silence for Kim Jong Il, Kim Ki Nam delivered a speech on behalf of the KWP.  Kim said that “Female Ch’o’llima rider depicted on the Statue of Ch’o’llima, a symbol of heroic Korea, which has shed its rays down through generations, features all mothers of the DPRK who displayed indomitable faith and heroic spirit in all fields in response to the call of the Party and the country” and thatthe mothers, who could hardly be freed from the burden of household chores for centuries, emerged powerful creators of the times and history. This history of landmark turn is associated with the lifetime indefatigable efforts of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il who led them every step of their way, attaching greater importance to their wisdom and strength than anybody else.”   According to KCNA ” the meeting discussed the tasks before the mothers and women to creditably discharge their mission for the prosperity of the country and harmony and happiness of society and families and the ways to do so.”

SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (front row, C) attends the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA screengrab)

Ri Song Sil delivered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the Korean Democratic Women’s Union.  Ro said that, “under the military-first (so’ngun) leadership of the Party they have made a great contribution to the upbringing of children and the building of a thriving nation through their efforts to fulfill their responsibility and mission for society and families” and “Korean women in Japan and other overseas Korean women including mothers are giving stead continuity to Kim Il Sung’s nation, showing great sincerity for the prosperity of the socialist homeland.”  According to KCNA Ro “called upon all mothers and women to single-mindedly remain loyal to the idea and leadership of the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un and thus discharge their sacred responsibility and mission for the times and the revolution.”

Members of the Korean Children’s Union recite a poem at the end of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

Ro’s remarks were followed by additional speeches.  After the speaking program KCNA reported that “a congratulatory group of the Korean Children’s Union entered the venue of the meeting and recited a congratulatory poem ‘Congratulations on the mothers’ meeting.’”

Flowers are presented to participants of the 4th National Meeting of Mothers on 15 November 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

On 16 November (Friday) the DPRK will celebrate its first Mothers’ Day.  16 November 2012 is the 51st anniversary of the First National Meeting of Mothers held on 16 November 1961.  During the first meeting of mothers Kim Il Sung’s essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children” was released.  1961 holds some significance in the annals of the Kim Family.  In April 1961, the Ch’o’llima statue was unveiled in Pyongyang, one of the first large monuments of kwangpok politics.    For three weeks during April and May 1961, according to the official chronicles, Kim Jong Il fulfilled his university student manual labor requirement at the Pyongyang Textile Machine Factory.  Also in May 1961 the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (f.k.a. Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland) was established.  In July 1961 then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Kim Il Sung signed the DPRK-China treaty.  1961 was also the year that Kim Il Sung disseminated two agricultural policies, the development of fruit farming (at an April KWP Central Committee enlarged meeting in Pukch’o’ng County in South Hamgyo’ng Province) and the dissemination of a rural agricultural management policy in December.

Ko (L) with her son Kim Jong Un (R). This photograph illustrates the title of Kim Il Sung’ essay “The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children.” (Photo: Party History Institute/Korea Documentary Film Studio via Mainichi Shimbun-Yonhap)

The Second National Meeting of Mothers occurred on  29 September 1998, days after Kim Jong Il formally assumed the DPRK government’s highest office of National Defense Commission Chairman.  A 27-year gap between mothers’ meetings might be explained as an early, oblique attempt to venerate Kim Jong Un’s mother Ko Yong Hui and establish, in the DPRK’s political culture, the legitimacy of the KJI-Ko family lineage.  The Third National Meeting of Mothers occurred on 24 November 2005, the year after Ko’s death.  The revival of the mothers’ meetings promoted–however subtly (to those “in the know”)–Ko’s importance.  But it was also a reference back to Kim Il Sung.  If Ko was linked to mothers’ meetings in 1998 and memorializing her formed the basis for the 2005 meeting, it aligned her son (at that time a toss-up between Jong Chol and Jong Un) directly with KIS’ treatise on the role of mothers in the DPRK from 1961 while also symbiotically associating the eventual hereditary successor with both KIS and KJI’s accomplishments from that year.

During this cursory flip-through of the Kims’ binders full of women, there are some other interesting similarities.  Like the second national meeting of mothers in 1998, the 4th national meeting occurred after Kim Jong Un formally assumed the supreme leadership position in the DPRK.  Throughout 2012, as part of KJU’s transition and power consolidations, a number of social and constituency groups (which reside under the KWP Workers’ Organizations Department) have gathered in Pyongyang.  The similarities in 1961 and 2012 are even more salient; as in 1961 the country has begun implementing (and retracting?) agricultural policies, a series of monuments to KIS and KJI have been erected in line with kwangpok politics, and the DPRK and China appear to be continuing amicable and substantial relations.  

Office #38 Repurposed?

18 Oct

Office #38 in the Korean Workers’ Party #1 Office Complex in central Pyongyang (Photo: Google image)

Kyodo News reported on 18 October (Thursday) that Office #38, a unit of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Finance and Accounting Department which managed some of Kim Jong Il’s cash holdings, was a eliminated as part of a consolidation of the country’s foreign currency-generating activities under the DPRK Cabinet.  Kyodo News reported that “was part of efforts by the leadership of Kim Jong Un to streamline entities that earn foreign currency by conducting economic activity such as trade and development of natural resources” and “the move was also intended to revitalize the economy and improve people’s living standard by increasing the role of the Cabinet.”  Ownership of companies previously part of Office #38 has migrated to the Moranbong Bureau, an entity of the DPRK Cabinet.  According to Kyodo “the management division of a Pyongyang restaurant conducting business in China and Southeast Asia, for example, has been transferred from Office 38, which oversaw transactions involving hotels, restaurants, foreign currency shops and trade to the newly established entity called ‘Moranbong Bureau’ that some say belongs to the Cabinet.”

Office #38 and the KWP Finance and Accounting Department in the Central District of Pyongyang (Photo: Google image)

Overview of the KWP #1 Office Complex in central Pyongyang (Photo: Google image)

Office #38 was formally established under the KWP Central Committee Secretariat’s Finance and Accounting Department in the mid-1980s by the department’s director Ro Myong Gun (No Myo’ng-kun).  It was part of the Third Floor, a group of central party sections (units) and offices which supplied Kim Jong Il with information, money and household items, and linked directly to his Personal Secretariat.  The names Third Floor and Office #38 (i.e., Room 38) derive from their original locations in the KWP Central Committee #1 Office Building (KJI’s headquarters from the 1970s until his death in 2011).

The KWP Central Committee #1 Office Building, which was Kim Jong Il’s headquarters from the mid-1970s until his death in 2011. Office #38 derives its name from the room number in this building where it was previously located (Photo: Google image)

With a staff of accountants, bookkeepers and security guards, it controlled a network of holding companies which owned and operated hotels and restaurants located in the DPRK and other Asian countries, as well as various stores and factories located in the country.  Between 20 and 30% of the revenue generated was turned over in cash (US Dollars, Euros) to Kim Jong Il, who would use it to pay his personal staff or dispense to members of his family, close aides and other senior DPRK officials (as gifts).  Office #38 was the not only central party unit responsible for managing KJI or Kim family financial assets or subsidizing his private life, but it was a key organization with regard to the technical and logistical administration of KJI’s money within the DPRK.  Office #38 personnel also escorted KJI’s fourth wife Ko Yong Hui (Ko Yo’ng-hu’i) and current supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) when they traveled abroad in the early 1990s, as well as Kim Jong Chol (Kim Cho’ng-ch’o’l) when he visited Singapore in February 2011.

Kim Tong Un (L) and Han Kwang Sang (R) (Photos: KCNA)

Daily management of Office #38 has divided between Kim Tong Un (Kim To’ng-u’n) and Han Kwang Sang.  Previously director of Office #39 (also rumored to have been under a consolidation and migration process), Kim Tong Un was subjected to travel sanctions by the European Union in 2009 and replaced by Jon Il Chun (Cho’n Il-ch’un) in early 2010.  Kim was not dismissed from office, but transferred to Office #38.  In February 2010 Han Kwang Sang was appointed a deputy director of the Finance and Accounting Department, and appeared with Kim Jong Il on a tour of the renovated Hyangsan Hotel.  It is likely Han was brought in to manage the Kim Jong Un portfolio in Office #38 and supervise the transfer of companies under Office #38 to the DPRK Cabinet.  Based on recent DPRK state media activity, neither Kim Tong Un nor Han Kwang Sang, has been dismissed from office.  Migrating most of Office #38′s responsibilities to other party and government entities conforms to a general trend in the organizations of the core leadership.  Since 2009, elements of Office #39, Office #35 (intelligence briefs) and KJI’s Personal Secretariat have been folded into the DPRK Government, the National Defense Commission [NDC] and the Guard Command during the transition from KJI to KJU.

The DPRK has recently started to heavily promote tourism in the country to China and the number of western tourists visiting the DPRK is as high as it has ever been.  Considering that a lot of businesses managed by Office #38 were part of the hospitality and restaurant sector in the DPRK, migrating control and management from Office #38 to the DPRK Cabinet mitigates the sanctimonious contention that traveling to the country “props up the regime.” It is likely these management changes were one factor in the closure of the Pyongyang Restaurant in Amsterdam in September.  It is also possible that these recent changes were one reason** Kim Kyong Hui (who owns several restaurants in and out of the country) did not appear in DPRK state media for a month.

**And also shopping for baby clothes.

 

Kim Jong Il Statue Dedicated at State Security

2 Oct

Members of the central leadership attend a ceremony dedicating a statue of Kim Jong Il at KPA Unit #10215 (also known as the Ministry of State Security). Among those in attendance include: VMar Hyon Chol Hae (4th L )VMar Kim Jong Gak (5th L), Gen. Kim Won Hong (6th L) VMar Choe Ryong Hae (7th L), Kim Yong Nam (8th L), Choe Yong Rim (7th R), Kim Ki Nam (6th R), Jang Song Taek (5th R) and Jo Yon Jun (4th R) (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

DPRK state media reported on 2 October (Tuesday) that a statue of Kim Jong Il was unveiled and dedicated at a ceremony on the campus of Korean People’s Army [KPA] Unit #10215.  The unit is the external name for the headquarters and command element of the Ministry of State Security [MSS]**.  Attending the dedication ceremony were Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, DPRK Cabinet Premier Choe Yong Nim, Director of the KPA General Political Department (bureau) VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Minister of State Security Gen. Kim Won Hong, Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary and Director of Propaganda and Agitation (publicity and information) Kim Ki Nam and  “other senior party, state and army officials, officials concerned, commanding officers and service personnel of the unit, military families, officials and employees of the unit who contributed to the erection of the statue.”

Floral baskets line the pedestal of a statue of late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il at KPA Unit #10215, dedicated on 2 October 2012 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

KCNA reported that the statue “depicts the great Generalissimo imposingly standing with one of his hands placed on his waist, his face beaming with a broad smile” and “seems to call on all the service personnel and people to dynamically advance towards a final victory, wishing the great Paektusan (Mt. Paektu) nation a rosy future of eternal prosperity.”  Participants at the dedication ceremony delivered a floral basket on behalf of DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n), a floral basket from the KWP Central Committee, the KWP Central Military Commission and the National Defense Commission and a floral basket from KPA Unit #10215.

After the floral baskets were placed at the statue’s pedestal, Minister of State Security Gen. Kim Won Hong delivered a speech to dedicate the statue.  According to KCNA Gen. Kim said in his remarks that “Generalissimo Kim Jong Il developed the WPK into an eternal party of Comrade Kim Il Sung and turned the socialist country into an invincible politico-ideological power and a world class military power.  Kim Jong Il’s  extraordinary leadership provided a sure guarantee for foiling all anti-DPRK plots of the U.S.-led imperialists and defending the single-minded unity of the revolutionary forces and Juche-oriented socialism as firm as an iron wall.”  Gen. Kim also “called on all service personnel and people to work hard to win a final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche, united close behind Marshal Kim Jong Un.”  KCNA reported “after being briefed on the statue, the participants looked round the statue.”

View of a ceremony dedicating a statue of Kim Jong Il at KPA Unit #10215 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

KPA Unit #10215 and the Ministry of State Security have played a significant role in Kim Jong Un’s succession and transition.  Various sources and media reports have claimed that MSS was one of the organizations where KJU cut his leadership teeth during 2007 to 2009.  The MSS did not use KPA Unit 10215 as its external use name until April 2009, after KJU’s hereditary succession was formally and internally communicated to second- and third-tier party, security and government officials.  On 9 May 2009, DPRK state media reported that Kim Jong Il conducted a field inspection of KPA Unit 10215′s command staff university, accompanied by leading MSS officials.  During his visit, KCNA reported that KJI’s first stop was the Kim Il Sung statue and revolutionary history exhibition.

Kim Jong Il tours the campus of KPA Unit #10215′s command staff university in May 2009 (Photo: KCNA)

Late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il tours the command staff university of KPA Unit #10215 in May 2009. Also seen in attendance in this image are Jang Song Taek, Kim Ki Nam, Ri Jae Il, MSS Senior (1st) Vice Minister Gen. U Tong Chuk and former MSS Vice Minister Ryu Kyong (Photo: KCNA)

In April 2010 and April 2011, KJI and KJU attended concerts by KPA Unit #10215′s art propaganda squad on the occasion of Kim Il Sung’s birthday (The Day of the Sun).  KJI and KJU also attended one of the unit’s concerts in October 2010, which marked their first public appearances after KJU’s mass public introduction at the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010.  On 25 October 2010, DPRK state media reported that KJI and KJU inspected KPA Unit #10215′s command element.  On 2 July 2011 DPRK state media reported that KJI and KJU attended a concert of the “the fourth second-term contest of art group members of the military families.”  Performing at that concert were the wives and families of members of KPA Unit #10215, KPA Unit #963 (Guard Command HQ) and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF].  These security organizations form the troika of security organizations with the mission of providing personal and political security for the Kim family and the DPRK’s core political leadership and guarantors of KJU’s succession.

Kim Jong Un’s wife Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu) is believed to have ties to the Ministry of State Security.  According to ROK media reports, Ri was a singer in KPA Unit #10215′s art propaganda squad.  It is entirely likely that as a singer, Ri may have been added to various singing groups and art troupes, particularly performances designated #1 events (attended by KJI or KJU).  In any event, if other reporting about Ri traveling to Japan in 2002 with a music group and ROK in 2005 as part of a cheering section are accurate then her name definitely passed through MSS’ channels.

**The MSS is the DPRK’s so-called secret police force whose primary mission is enforcing political security (ensuring KWP control and Kim family rule in the country).  MSS performs a number of functions including managing a domestic surveillance network, providing protection escort services, watching foreigners in the DPRK, monitoring the activities of DPRK citizens who travel (or return from) abroad, managing a network of detention facilities, monitoring (surveillance of) the communications and activities of party, government and economic officials, conducting foreign trade activities and general management and oversight of border security units and the Military Security Command.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 523 other followers