North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Choe T’ae-pok (Choe Thae Bok)

updated 30 March 2011

Choe T’ae-pok is a member of the Political Bureau, a CC KWP Secretary and Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly.  A chemist by training, he has been a member of the party leadership since the mid-1980s and regularly travels outside the country to meet with the DPRK’s allies abroad.  Choe T’ae-pok has been an adviser to Kim Chong-il for nearly three decades.  He is one of the most popular members of the central leadership.

Choe T’ae-pok was born in Namp’o, South P’yo’ngan, in 1930.  He was one of the first matriculates of the Mangyo’ngdae School.  He graduated from Kim Il-so’ng University and completed coursework at Leipzig Engineering College (now part of the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences) around 1952 and Moscow State University in 1954.  After completing his education Choe worked as a schoolteacher.  In 1959 Choe was appointed a guidance official in the CC KWP Education Department.

Choe returned to research and teaching around 1961, when he joined the faculty of the Hamhu’ng Chemical Engineering College.  In 1965 he was appointed director of research for the Hamhung branch of the Chemical Research Institute in the National Academy of Sciences.  In 1968 Choe was appointed dean of Hamhu’ng Chemical Engineering College.   In 1972 he was appointed section chief in the CC KWP Education Department, where he helped establish the monolithic ideological guidance system in the DPRK’s education system.

In the late 1970s was later appointed Dean of the Faculty and President of Kim Chaek University of Technology.  In the 1980’s he served successively as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Education Commission and Minister of Higher Education.  Choe was responsible for a number of policy initiatives in science education and expansion of cultural exchanges and other programs for DPRK students to study outside the country.

Choe T’ae-pok was first elected a deputy (delegate) to the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] in 1982 and led an SPA delegation on an official visit to France in November the same year.  In the 1980s Choe made a number of trips outside the DPRK including to Malta (1982), Russia (1984), Germany (1984), PRC (1985), Bulgaria (1985) and Tanzania (1986).  Choe was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the Party Central Committee [CC KWP] at its 9th plenum (6th Term/6th CC) in 1984.

He was elected to full (regular) membership as well as a CC KWP Secretary [Secretariat] at the 12th plenum (6th Term/6th CC) on 27 December 1986.  Choe was elected an alternate (candidate) member of the Political Bureau at the 18th plenum (6th Term/6th CC) on 23 May 1990.  As a party secretary Choe had responsibilities in education, science and cultural and technical exchanges.  During 1993 and 1994 Choe temporarily assumed some of the job functions of then-CC KWP International Secretary, Kim Yong-sun.

Choe was elected Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly at the 1st plenum of the 10th SPA in September 1998.  As both SPA Chairman and CC KWP Secretary, Choe regularly travels outside the DPRK.  He represented the DPRK a parliamentary conference at the UN Geneva in July 2010 where he also met with members of the Iranian, Cuban, Syrian and PRC leadership on the sidelines.  Choe also led a KWP delegation to the PRC on 30 November, one week after the Yo’np’yo’ng Island attack in ROK on 23 November.

Choe was elected to full membership on the Political Bureau at the September 2010 Plenary Meeting of the CC KWP and was a rostrum member at the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010.  On 29 March 2011 the DPRK press reported on Choe’s arrival in London.  Choe delivered a speech at a private event hosted by a UK policy organization.

Choe has held about the same position in the regime for two decades.  Regardless of whether Choe (and his reportedly progressive views) finds favor with the center, he enjoys a certain affection and popularity from thousands of DPRK students who were educated abroad in the early 1980s and the early 2000s.  Choe is a reputed protégé of Yang Hyong-so’p [SPA Presidium Vice President] and is tied to Cho’n Pyong-ho, as well as Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i.

In addition to Korean, he speaks fluent German, Russian and English.  Choe T’ae-pok is intelligent with an upbeat, cheerful personality.

Choe Tae-pok greets Wu Bangguo in Beijing on 1 December (Photo: Xinhua)

Choe Tae-pok

Member, CC KWP Political Bureau

CC KWP Secretary

Chairman, Supreme People’s Assembly

Member, Party Central Committee [CC KWP]


Kim Il-song University

Leipzig College of Engineering

Moscow State University

1959: Guidance Officer, CC KWP Education Department

1961: Professor, Hamhung Chemical Engineering College

1965: Director, Research Institute, Hamhung Branch, National Academy of Sciences

1968: Dean, Hamhung Chemical Engineering College

1972: Section Chief, CC KWP Education Department

1976: Deputy Director, CC KWP Education Department

1978: President, Kim Chaek University of Technology

1980: Chairman, Education Commission, DPRK Cabinet

1981: Minister of Higher Education

Chairman, DPRK-Bulgaria Friendship Association

1982: Deputy, 7th SPA

1984: Elected, Alternate (candidate) Member, CC KWP

1986: Deputy, 8th SPA

1986: Elected, Member, CC KWP

CC KWP Secretary (Secretariat)

1990: Deputy, 9th SPA

Elected, Alternate (candidate) Member, Political Bureau

1992: Director, CC KWP Science Education Department

1993: Chairman, Korean Solidarity Committee for the World’s People

1994: Member, Kim Il-song Funeral Committee (#15)

1998: Deputy, 10th SPA

Chairman, SPA

2003: Deputy, 11th SPA

Chairman, SPA

2009: Deputy, 12th SPA

Chairman, 12th SPA

2010: Elected, Member, Political Bureau

CC KWP Secretary

DPRK Policy Elites (Alexandria, VA: IDA, 2004)

“Biographic Information on 100 Officials,” Wolkan Kyonghyang, September 21, 1989

“Narrative Biographies of DPRK Figures,” Seoul Sindong-A, January 1995 pp 210-278

“N. Korea Speaker Makes Rare Address in the West,” AFP, March 29, 2011

“Senior N. Korean Official Accuses South of Provoking Tension,” Arirang News, July 21, 2010

“SPA Chairman to Visit China,” NHK, November 28, 2010

Yonhap News Agency. The North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) p. 770

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