North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Gen. Kim Won Hong

updated July 1, 2016

General Kim Won Hong is Minister of State Security, a member of the Korean Workers’ Party Political Bureau and member of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC].  He is also a member of the Party Central Committee, deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly and a member of the State Affairs Commission.

According to DPRK state media, Gen. Kim was appointed Minister of State Security in April 2012.  From 2004 to approximately 2010, Gen. Kim headed the Military Security Command [MSC], which polices, investigates and watches military officers and facilities.  Gen. Kim frequently shadowed Kim Jong Il during his appearances at military bases or military-related locales within the DPRK.

According to DPRK records, Kim Won Hong was born in 1945.  He joined the Korean People’s Army [KPA] in 1962.  Kim became known to external observers as a member of MAR Choe Kwang’s funeral committee in 1997. He was elected a deputy (delegate) to the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1998.

His first significant position was as a member of the WPK committee of the Pyongyang Defense Command.  Kim also served as deputy director of the KPA General Political Department as well as a political commissar of VII and IX Army Corps, both of which are linked to the MSC.  He was appointed MSC chief around 2004 after the death of longtime MSC commander General Won Ung Hui. Kim was temporarily demoted to the rank of Lieutenant General around 2005 due to a failure to monitor international telephone usage by officials working for KPA-owned trading corporations.

Kim was promoted to General in April 2009.  In 2009 or 2010, Gen. Kim reportedly migrated from MSC to an unspecified position in support of hereditary successor Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).  According to ROK open sources, Kim was appointed a deputy director of the KPA General Political Department during February 2009.  However, during 2009 to 2011 Kim continued to function as head of the MSC.  During the same period of time, Kim accompanied then-hereditary successor Kim Jong Un on field inspections of military and internal security units.

Kim Won Hong was elected a member of the Party Central Committee (CC KWP) and member of the Party Central Military Commission at the 3rd Party Conference on 28 September 2010.  During the 3rd Party Conference, Gen. Kim was seated next to Kim Jong Un.  Following Kim Jong Il’s December 2011 death, Kim emerged as one of Jong Un’s closest aides.  During the first two years, he regularly accompanied Jong Un on military inspections.

Gen. Kim is one of four senior KPA officials prominently depicted supporting and assisting Kim Jong Un.  On 8 March 2012, Gen. Kim sang a duet during a concert by the U’nhasu Orchestra held on International Women’s Day. On 11 April Kim was elected to full membership on the Political Bureau and was identified as Minister of State Security.  He was subsequently elected a member of the DPRK National Defense Commission.

During 2013, Gen. Kim led an investigation into the business, political and personal affairs of Jang Song Thaek, brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il and uncle of Kim Jong Un.  Jang was subsequently removed from office, dismissed from the WPK and was executed following a tribunal of the Ministry of State Security.  Gen. Kim also oversaw numerous investigations, dismissals, incarcerations of various senior and mid-level party and government officials during 2013-2015.

Gen. Kim was elected to the State Affairs Commission at the fourth session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly in June 2016.

“North Korea Implements Generational Changeover in Military,” Yonhap News Agency (in Korean) June 6, 2004; “10 Years of Kim Cho’ng-il–Who are the Real Close Aides? and Foggy Succession Structure,”by Ch’oe Son-yon, Yonhap News Agency (in Korean), July 1, 2004;   The North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2003) p. 857; “DPRK ‘Dismissed’ Minister Over Bird Flu Outbreak, Leaks to Outside World,” Yonhap News Agency, March 13, 2005; “Understanding North Korea’s Top 30 Core Officials,” JoongAng Ilbo (in Korean), June 14, 2005;  Gause, Ken.  North Korean Civil-Military Trends: Military-first Politics to a Point.  (Carlisle, PA: USAWC Strategic Studies Institute, September 2006) p. 42; “Chang So’ng-t’aek of the North Leading the Party’s Administrative Department and the Social Cleanup Drive — ‘Chang Has Become Powerful’ — the Status of the Ministry of People’s Security, Which Is Under the Control of the Administrative Department, Too, Has Been Coincidently Enhanced — Crackdown on the Corruption and Irregularities — Which Place the System in Jeopardy — Is Intensified” by Ch’oe So’n-yo’ng and Chang Yong-hun, Yonhap News Agency (in Korean) March 17, 2008; “Kim Jong Il Visits Unit 1811 Under Artillery Command,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean) March 14, 2009; “Kim Jong Il Orders Promotion of Military Ranks of KPA Commanding Officers,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), April 14, 2009; “Kim Jong Il Meets with Non-commissioned Officers,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), September 29, 2009; “Great Leader [ryo’ngdoja] Comrade Kim Cho’ng-il Gives on-the-spot Guidance to Work of Various Sectors (June-August Chuch’e 98 [2009],” Korean Central Television (in Korean), November 25, 2009; “N. Korean Brat Pack ‘Behind Global Crime'” Chosun Ilbo, May 26, 2010; “Great Leader Kim Cho’ng-il Gives Guidance to Work of Various Sectors (April-May Chuch’e 99,” Korean Central Television (in Korean), September 15, 2010; “Members, Alternate Members of the Central Committee, WPK,” Korean Central News Agency, September 28, 2010; “Central Military Commission of WPK Organized,” Korean Central News Agency, September 28, 2010; “Kim Jong Il Places Wreath at CPV Martyrs’ Cemetery on 26 October,” Korean Central Broadcasting Station (in Korean), October 26, 2010; “North Korea’s Princelings Unveiled,” by Mok Yong Jae, The Daily NK, April 18, 2011; “The Respected and Beloved Supreme Commander Kim Cho’ng-il Guided the Joint Exercise of the Army, the Navy and the Air Forces of the Korean People’s Army, 7 September, Chuch’e 100 (2011),” Korean Central Television (in Korean) November 29, 2011; “National Funeral Committee Formed,” Korean Central News Agency, December 19, 2011; “Brief History of Member of Presidium, Members and Alternate Members of the Political Bureau of the C.C., WPK, Elected to Fill Vacancies,” Korean Central News Agency, April 12, 2012; “N. Korea Purged Senior Intelligence Official: Source,” Yonhap News Agency, April 17, 2012;”Six Men Appear to Climb in Ranks in Regime,” by Lee Yong-Jong and Ser Myo-Ja, JoongAng Ilbo, December 13, 2013;