Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
added 26 July 2014
General O Kum Chol (O Ku’m-ch’o’l) is a Vice Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff, a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Central Committee and deputy of the Supreme People’s Assembly. From 1995 to 2008 he served as commander of the KPA Air and anti-Air Forces.
O was commissioned into the KPA Air Force during the early 1970s as a commander of a KPAF fighter pilot squad and was eventually elevated to command of a flight group. In April 1984 he was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel (chungjwa) and became chief of staff of the KPAF 7th Air Division. In April 1987, O was appointed vice commander of the 3rd Air Combat Division and promoted to Colonel (sangjwa). Three years later he was appointed commander of the 3rd Air Combat Division.
In April 1990, O Kum Chol was promoted to Major General (Sojang) and was elected a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly. In 1991 migrated from the 3rd Air Division to the KPAF’s Air Command in Pyongyang. The KPA Air Command is tasked with air traffic control in the DPRK and supervises all maintenance of DPRK aircraft. He was promoted to Lt. General (chungjang) in April 1992.
O Kum Chol succeeded VMar Jo Myong Rok as commander of the KPA Air Force in October 1995 and was promoted to Colonel General (sangjang). He attended over a dozen field inspections and concerts with late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il as commander of air force. In July 2001 O particpated in talks with a senior delegation of the Cuban FAR and in December of that year attended a reception at the Russian Embassy in the DPRK. In 2008 he was appointed Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff and in 2010 he was elected a member of the WPK Central Committee. He was elected to the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission in November 2012.
As Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff, O Kum Chol’s portfolio includes military strategy and planning as well as relations with foreign militaries. O is also active in the DPRK’s sports community. He participates in expanded meetings of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC] and the WPK Political Bureau. He routinely attends meetings and social events with visiting foreign delegations and defense attaches stationed in Pyongyang. He attended several meetings with visiting foreign military delegations alongside the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces during the 60th anniversary of the end of the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War), however his presence at these meetings only appeared in Korean language news items.
In October 2013, O Kum Chol participated in a welcome event and attended a reception for Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. In May 2014, he flew a figher jet at a flight drill by commanders of the KPA Air and anti-Air Forces. In July 2014 he spoke at a reception given for the Central Military Orchestra of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense. O has also attended a number of sports competitions with current DPRK leader Kim Jong Un. O was promoted to General (taejang) on July 17, 2014.
O Kum Chol was born in February 1947. He is the son of O Paek Ryong (1911-1984), a former member of the 88th Sniper Brigade and close cohort of DPRK President and founder Kim Il Sung. O Kum Chol attended Mangyo’ngdae Revolutionary School, the Soviet Air Force Academy and the Kim Ch’aek Air Force University. O Kum Chol’s brother O Chol San serves as Director of the KPA Navy Political Bureau. Gen. O has close ties with KPA General Political Department Director Hwang Pyong So.
Gen. O Kum Chol
Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff
Member, Party Central Committee
Deputy, 13th Supreme People’s Assembly
1972: (ca.) commissioned KPA Air Force
1984: Chief of Staff, KPAF 7th Air Division
Promoted to Lt. Colonel
1987: Vice Commander, KPAF 3rd Air Combat Division
Promoted to Colonel
1990: Commander, KPAF 3rd Air Combat Division
Promoted to Major General
Elected, Deputy to the 9th Supreme People’s Assembly
1991: Commander and Director, KPAF Air Command Headquarters
1992: Promoted to Lt. General
1995: Member, Choe Kwang Funeral Committee
Commander of the KPA Air Force
Promoted to Colonel General
1998: Elected Deputy to the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly
2003: Elected Deputy to the 11th Supreme People’s Assembly
2008: Relieved of command of KPA Air Force
Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff
2009: Elected Deputy to the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly
2010: Elected Member of the WPK Central Committee
Member, Jo Myong Rok Funeral Committee
2011: Member, Kim Jong Il Funeral Committee
2014: Member, Jon Pyong Ho Funeral Committee
Promoted to General
Sources: Interview data acquired by Michael Madden; “Study on Composition and Characteristics of DPRK Military’s Next-Generation Leadership,” Kukpang Yo’ngu (in Korean), June 1, 2007 OSC; North Korea Handbook (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2003) p.867; “50th Air Force Day,” KCNA (in English), August 20, 1997; “Talks held between military delegations of DPRK and Cuba,” June 3, 2001; “Chief of general staff of KPA meets Cuba military delegation,” KCNA (in English), June 3, 2001; “Friendship gathering,” KCNA (in English), December 13, 2001; “Members and Alternate Members of WPK Central Committee,” KCNA (in English) September 28, 2010; “National Funeral Committee Formed,” KCNA (in English) December 19, 2011; “Report on Enlarged Meeting of Political Bureau of WPK Central Committee,” KCNA (in English), November 4, 2012; “Banquet Given for Mongolian President,” KCNA (in English), October 28, 2012; “Kim Jong Un Guides Combat Flight Contest Among Air Commanding Officers,” KCNA (in English), May 10, 2014; “Kim Jong Un Issues Order on Promoting Military Ranks of KPA Commanding Officers,” KCNA (in English), July 26, 2014