North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Gen. Hyon Chol Hae

General Hyon Chol Hae is concurrently Director of the National Defense Commission’s Standing Bureau and a deputy (vice) director of the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department.  Gen. Hyon is also a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) and a deputy (delegate) to the Supreme People’s Assembly.  Gen. Hyon manages the general daily operations of the National Defense Commission.  He also directs and coordinates Kim Jong Il’s visits to Korean People’s Army units.  Due to his acumen at political management and military logistics, Gen. Hyon has been a valued military aide to Kim Il Sung and KJI.

Hyon Chol Hae was born in 1934.  He attended the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School and the Nicolae Bălcescu Military Academy in Romania.  He served in Kim Il Sung’s personal security escort corps in the 1960s.  In 1968 he was promoted to Major General and assigned as deputy director of organizations in the MPAF General Political Bureau.  However, he was dismissed from this position in the 1970s.  He was later assigned to be director of the KPA Rear Officers’ Training School.

In 1986 Hyon was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned to be director of the MPAF General Logistics Bureau, where served until 1995.  He was elected a Candidate Member to the CC KWP at its 19th Plenum (6th CC/6th Term) in December 1991 and elected to full membership at the last known CC KWP meeting, the 21st Plenum (6th CC/6th Term) in December 1993.  He was a member of Kim Il Sung’s Funeral Committee in July 1994.

In 1995 Hyon was promoted to General and assigned as deputy director of the MPAG General Political Bureau.  He was elected a deputy to the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1998 and served on its Qualifications Screening Committee.  He was subsequently reelected to the 11th SPA in 2003 and the 12th SPA in 2009.  He was appointed director of the NDC Standing Bureau in 2007.

Gen. Hyon Chol Hae (R) with Kim Jong Il in Kangdong Cuonty, Pyongyang in January 2009 (Photo: KCNA)

Gen. Hyon, along with Gen. Ri Myong Su with whom he regularly appears in KJI’s entourage, has been a central player in KJI’s military management for 15 years.  Gen Ri and he appeared with KJI in his appearances before, around and after his August 2008 stroke.  Gen. Hyon also traveled to China with KJI in May 2010.

It has been speculated that Hyon Chol Hae is involved in a power competition with Jang Song Taek.  However, Gen. Hyon’s power is derived entirely from his proximity to KJI.  He does not have the patronage system, as possessed by Jang Song Taek in the party.  From the perspective of KPA leaders, Gen. Hyon is not a political networker like Gen. Kim Myong Guk, director of the General Staff Operations Bureau.

See also:

Gause, Ken.  “Scenarios and Signposts: Managing Future North Korean Crises”

(Alexandria, VA: Center for Naval Analyses, June 2009)

North Korean Civil-Military Trends: Military First Politics to a Point (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute USAWC, 2006)

Yonhap News Agency.  North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) pp. 657; 791

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